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Vulnerable: Nursing homes need first access to vaccines

Not long ago, we wrote that COVID-19 seemed to have surged once again into nursing homes. At the time, public health officials reported active outbreaks of the disease at 65 long-term care facilities in West Virginia.

An update just a few days later put the number at 78. Just 45 Mountain State nursing homes were free of the disease.

Last Friday’s state report indicated 267 deaths at West Virginia nursing homes since the epidemic began.

Dozens of local nursing home residents in our region have succumbed to the disease. The grim outlook is that even more area residents will perish in long-term care centers.

A new vaccine expected to be extremely effective against the disease may be available by mid-December. Gov. Jim Justice has indicated safeguarding nursing home residents will be a top priority.

By the time that occurs, many nursing home residents in our state will have achieved at least some immunity against the disease because they have already had it. The same goes for a number of employees at the facilities.

Still, thousands of West Virginians in nursing homes will remain vulnerable to COVID-19.

With vaccine production still in its early stages, supplies will be very limited. Many categories of people have need of it, with health care workers at the top of the list.

As the fatality lists at nursing homes continue to grow, however, it is plain that nursing home residents — and perhaps even more, the staff members who may be carrying the virus into their workplaces — are the critical priority.

State officials understand that need. This is a situation in which hours — not days –count. Any obstacle to getting the vaccine to nursing homes needs to be demolished now, before it becomes a problem.

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