CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says the state is still working to get COVID-19 vaccines to as many West Virginians as possible and a new initiative with healthcare students in higher education is helping advance that effort.
Justice and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission say more than 1,000 health professional students from universities and colleges throughout West Virginia are volunteering with local health departments and community health partners to help with the state’s continued vaccine rollout.
The program is part of a new initiative called the West Virginia Vaccine Administration Collaboration and Support (WV VACS) Team, which was created from a partnership of the National Guard, Department of Health and Human Resources and the HEPC.
The HEPC says the students, from 32 health sciences programs in the state, will be helping with vaccination clinics throughout the spring, summer and fall.
“We are thrilled to provide this opportunity to students pursuing careers in healthcare,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor for Higher Education. “This unique experience is allowing them to play a critical role in West Virginia’s already-remarkable vaccination campaign. We are proud that so many students have already volunteered. It’s a testament to their commitment to their chosen professions, and to serving the health needs of West Virginians.”
The governor says the state is also reaching out to manufacturers, businesses and pastors as part of its vaccination efforts to set up clinics for their staffs and congregations wanting to receive the vaccine. Justice also said there are currently 93 COVID-19 cases linked to churches in the Mountain State.
“I want to continue to encourage everyone, especially at the age of 65 and older, please go get your vaccine,” Justice said.
Before working in the communities, the students must complete an online curriculum designed to enhance their knowledge of COVID-19 vaccines and administering them. Once they receive this training, groups of the students will work under supervision with local health providers to administer the vaccines and support data entry. The higher education institutions are determining if students will receive either course credit or community service for participating in the voluntary program.
As of March 17, the HEPC says 112 of the students have already begun assisting clinics.
Justice says while vaccinations have been successful so far, the best defense against COVID-19 until the state reaches herd immunity is wearing your mask, following other COVID-19 guidelines and getting tested for the virus.
As of this morning, Friday, April 2, a total of 342,851 West Virginians have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Health officials say 518,543 people have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. West Virginians can pre-register for a COVID-19 vaccination at vaccinate.wv.gov.