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Gov. Jim Justice at Monday's press conference. / Photo courtesy W.Va. Governor's Office

List of vaccine-eligible pre-existing conditions expanded; vaccines now available to all essential workers

During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that he is expanding the list of pre-existing medical conditions qualifying West Virginians to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a result, vaccinations are now available to all West Virginians age 16 and older with any of the following pre-existing medical conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Immunosuppression
  • Lung fibrosis
  • Blood disorders
  • Liver disease
  • COPD
  • Neurological disorders
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Chronic infectious disease like HIV

These are in addition to the pre-existing conditions or situations Gov. Justice previously announced as vaccine-eligible:

  • Down syndrome
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caretakers
  • Caretakers of those with congenital or acquired disease
  • Organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Obesity (BMI > 35)
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pregnancy

The Governor went on to announce that vaccinations are now also available to all essential workers, as defined in Executive Order 9-20.

Gov. Justice added that, starting next week, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, large health system clinics, and primary care clinics will begin offering vaccines to their own lists of recipients to ensure that all West Virginians who want a vaccine are able to be vaccinated as expeditiously as possible.

However, all West Virginians who wish to be vaccinated are still encouraged to pre-register at vaccinate.wv.gov to help schedule the earliest possible appointment.

Gov. Justice once again encouraged all West Virginians age 16 and older desiring to be vaccinated to pre-register at vaccinate.wv.gov or by calling 1-833-734-0965.

Vaccinations are currently available to all West Virginians age 50 and older, education workers age 40-50, all West Virginians age 16 and older with the aforementioned pre-existing medical conditions, and all essential workers.

West Virginians who are age 65 and older will continue to be prioritized first until all state residents in this age range who desire the vaccine have been vaccinated.

To date, 213,009 West Virginians age 65 and older have chosen to be vaccinated, including 135,730 who are now fully vaccinated.

“As of today, we have vaccinated 58 percent of the people that are over 65 years of age. Our goal is to get that to 75 percent. But, really and truly, what we need is 75 percent of all those over 50 year old; and even higher if we can,” Gov. Justice said.

Any West Virginians age 65 and older who are still waiting on an appointment are urged to call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965 to ensure that they are scheduled to be vaccinated. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gov. Justice noted that, by the end of this week, all West Virginia school employees over the age of 50 that wanted a vaccine will have been vaccinated.

“We’re also still vaccinating our school employees from 40 to 50 years of age and we should clean up all school employees very, very soon,” Gov. Justice said.

The Governor went on to discuss President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that he wants all Americans to be eligible to receive a vaccine by May 1, 2021.

“We’re confident we’re going to be ready to pull that off here in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “All we need you to do is choose to get vaccinated. We’re on a glide slope to being able to get our lives back to normal, and that’s what we want more than anything.”

Free COVID-19 vaccination clinics either already have been or will be held in all 55 counties across West Virginia this week through operation “Save Our Wisdom.”

Each clinic location has its own, unique schedule. Names are being pulled from the West Virginia COVID-19 Vaccine Registration System to fill out appointments. All clinics require appointments and walk-ins will not be accepted. To date, more than 381,000 West Virginians have signed up to be added to the pre-registration list.

Additionally Monday, Gov. Justice announced that, in light of the American Rescue Plan Stimulus bill extending unemployment benefits for all Americans through September 4, 2021, WorkForce West Virginia is working with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specific guidance to implement the unemployment provisions of the American Rescue Plan.

The Governor noted that any West Virginians currently receiving unemployment must continue filling out their weekly certifications.

WorkForce West Virginia has programmed their system to enable people to continue certifying, so there are no gaps in benefits once the guidelines are finalized. To ensure a seamless transition, and make sure there are no gaps in benefits payments, WorkForce West Virginia has asked the DOL for approval to deploy the extended programs before receiving official guidance.

Updates will be provided as they becomes available. Visit workforcewv.org for unemployment resources and more information.

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