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Wood County COVID-19 vaccination rate trails others

Wood County Commissioners Jimmy Colombo, left, and Blair Couch look over state COVID-19 vaccination statistics during Monday’s commission meeting at the Judge Black Annex in downtown Parkersburg. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Nearly 14,000 Wood County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to statistics from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

That represents 16.5 percent of the county’s population, the eighth-lowest total in the state. Wood is among 14 counties without at least a 20 percent vaccination rate, DHHR statistics posted on the state’s online COVID dashboard showed Monday.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said he’s asked the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, which oversees vaccinations in Wood and five other counties, to shed some light on the numbers.

“We wanted clarification why other counties are getting ahead of us on the vaccine,” Couch said after Monday’s commission meeting. “We were concerned when we were lagging behind.”

Tucker County leads the state with a 40.8 percent vaccination rate – 2,800 doses administered among the county’s 6,839 residents, according to DHHR statistics. Wyoming County is second at 38.1 percent.

Population size doesn’t appear to play a major role, since Wyoming County has more than 20,000 residents. Kanawha County, the state’s most heavily populated, boasts the fifth-highest rate of 33 percent, while Wirt County, with the smallest population at less than 6,000, sits at 20.8 percent.

The lowest rate in the state is Jefferson County’s 9.1 percent. It has a population of 57,146.

Carrie Brainard, threat preparedness coordinator with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said she’s not sure why Wood County’s rate is lower than many counties’, but it isn’t because there are vaccines going unused.

“We do not have any vaccines that we haven’t given out,” Brainard said. “When we get vaccines in, we schedule appointments and we get them in arms.”

About 320 people were vaccinated Monday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, Brainard said. The event was rescheduled from last week because of ice and snow, which was an issue around the state.

Tucker County Health Department Administrator/Sanitarian James Snyder said via email that multiple factors have contributed to the county’s COVID vaccination rate, including cooperation among multiple public entities and medical clinics; the vaccination of teachers, long-term care facility residents and staff and workers at the Kenneth “Honey” Rubenstein Juvenile Center; and residents receiving vaccinations through pharmacies, Veterans Administration facilities and regional clinics, which were offered without geographic restriction in the early weeks of the vaccination effort.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our county’s vaccination clinic workers and what they have achieved by working together,” Snyder said. “And I’m very pleased with our residents and their willingness to receive their vaccinations and that they’ve been aggressive in getting to clinics where vaccine was available to them.”

Couch said he wasn’t being critical or begrudging other counties their rates; he just wants to understand what’s contributing to Wood County’s statistics.

Although the state took over vaccination scheduling in late January, the MOVHD continues to set up Wood County appointments using a stand-by list it built before that transition.

According to a post Friday on the department’s Facebook page, approximately 3,400 Wood County residents remained on that list. About 500 of them had not answered their phones or were unable to attend an event.

People who have yet to sign up for a vaccine are directed to do so through the state system at vaccinate.wv.gov or call 1-833-734-0965.

The department’s goal is to have everyone 65 and older vaccinated within the next five to six weeks, the post said.

Statewide, 162,272 people have been fully vaccinated, receiving both doses, according to DHHR figures. The state has administered 269,670 first doses.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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