Anyone ages 16 and up can now receive a free COVID-19 vaccine

BUCKHANNON — Local health officials are imploring residents to sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as clinics are starting to have more supply than demand.

During Monday’s Upshur County Chamber of Commerce meeting, Lisa Wharton with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Ronna Dittman with Community Care encouraged anyone who wants a free vaccine to sign up for an appointment.

According to Dittman, clinics were getting to the point they were having trouble filling all the available spots, prompting the healthcare organization to call the state and ask that eligibility be opened to all residents.

Gov. Jim Justice did just that on Monday, lifting restrictions and allowing any resident ages 16 and older to receive the vaccine.

“It’s anyone who wants to get vaccinated,” Dittman said, noting that local residents can call 304-471-2240 to receive an appointment. If you get a recorded message, wait and leave your name and number and someone will return your call.

“At this point we are trying so hard to get people that I’ve given out my cell phone, my work email, we’re posting messages on social media,” she said. “We’re hitting the phones, calling people, going through the list we get from the state. Come May, we might not have to be holding these clinics anymore.”

Wharton echoed those comments.

“Our hope is in the next four-to-six weeks to get as many people vaccinated as we can,” she said. “It’s really been a great partnership.”

Wharton praised the volunteers who have made the clinics possible.

“It takes at least 50 volunteers to staff each clinic,” she said. “It’s a really cool thing to volunteer at. It’s time consuming and a little exhausting, but people are so grateful.”

Wharton thanked Fred Eberle Technical Center and West Virginia Wesleyan College for providing volunteers, and Dittman added the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur to that list.

“Rotary has been key here in Upshur County,” Dittman said. “We could not do it without the volunteers. Literally, it would be impossible.”

She said the clinics have been effective and efficient, usually taking an individual less than 30 minutes.

“We have not wasted a single vaccine,” Dittman said.

Wharton added that nearly 5,000 people in Upshur County have been vaccinated to date. To sign up, call 304-471-2240.

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