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Opinion: Health leaders in West Virginia issue letter in support of COVID-19 vaccination

In Open Letter to Mountaineers WV Health Leaders State Support for COVID-19 Vaccination

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Top health experts in West Virginia examined COVID-19 vaccine evidence and are reaching out in an open letter to West Virginians to share their perspectives and implore action.

Health care providers and public health professionals across West Virginia tuned in on Dec. 11, 2020. as the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and again on December 12, 2020 as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended specific use of the vaccine in the U.S. to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in what is anticipated to be the biggest public health response of our lifetimes.

Leaders across medical and public health professional groups in West Virginia have prepared for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine for several months while following the development and authorization of the vaccines. With anticipation of the availability of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, these groups have also written an open letter to the citizens of West Virginia to express their confidence in the two-dose vaccine and the process by which it was developed and authorized.

“Our communities have been hurting for nine months and at last we have a way to safely move toward herd immunity,” Joanna Bailey, MD, President of the West Virginia Academy of Family Physicians said. “The safety and effectiveness of this vaccine has been vetted by the medical community.  I have reviewed these medical recommendations and am confident in the high efficacy and limited side effects like headaches and fatigue that are similar to other vaccines. I have complete confidence in this data.  I will take the vaccine myself and recommend the COVID-19 vaccination to others who fit ACIP guidance.”

The letter, which is signed by 26 West Virginia healthcare and public health leaders, states “We want to be clear: We will get vaccinated as soon as it is our turn, and we will recommend it as soon as possible to our family members and patients based on guidance from the ACIP. We trust the process, and we think you should, too.” The letter is available at http://www.wvafp.org/2020/12/14/open-letter-to-west-virginians-from-wv-healthcare-leaders-we-trust-the-covid-19-vaccine/.

“These have been challenging months for us all, but today I am hopeful and optimistic. Experts have mobilized like never before to create safe, effective vaccines to fight COVID-19. I trust that this tool can help us stamp out the pandemic, as long as we all do our part and get vaccinated as soon as it’s available. While we all work together on that, it’s also important that we all continue to wear masks, wash our hands, and practice safe physical distancing,” said Lisa Costello, MD, MPH, FAAP, President of the West Virginia Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated to arrive in West Virginia on December 14, 2020 with the first doses expected to be available within 24 hours of arrival, but in limited supply, to hospital staff, long-term care facilities, and pharmacy staff. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to be reviewed by the FDA’s independent advisory committee December 17, 2020 and may be available in West Virginia as soon as the following week.

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