WASHINGTON — All Health Resources and Services Administration-funded health centers and look-alike health centers in West Virginia have been invited to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccine Program, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Wednesday.

The program allows 31 health centers in West Virginia to directly order COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government, increasing West Virginia’s overall dose allocation, Manchin said. Also, West Virginia will receive an increase of 2,340 Pfizer doses, with the state receiving 53,820 first and second Pfizer doses, 38,600 first and second Moderna doses and 3,300 Johnson & Johnson doses next week, he said.

The decision by the Health Resources and Services Administration to invite all 31 administration-funded health centers in the state to order COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government “is wonderful news for the Mountain State,” Manchin said.

“In addition to allowing for health centers to order more doses, West Virginia will receive a total of over 95,000 doses next week,” Manchin said.

The health centers are appreciative, according to Sherri Ferrell, CEO of the West Virginia Primary Care Association.

“We are thrilled that all community health centers are now able to participate in HRSA’s Vaccine Program to receive shipments of COVID-19 vaccine directly,” Ferrell said. “The direct allocation of vaccine allows health centers to focus their efforts on vaccinating their patients ages 16 and older and ensure they receive other necessary health care services.”

Community health centers serve about 480,000 West Virginians at 400 locations across the state, providing access and outreach to rural and vulnerable populations, she said. Health centers have been a key partner in West Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine success since December, helping to vaccinate their patients and public, Ferrell said.

“In addition, some with access to vaccination sites have heard misinformation about vaccines, but may be more willing to vaccinate after consultation with their family medical provider,” said Rick Simon, CEO, Community Care of West Virginia.

Direct access to vaccines will allow clinics to provide immunizations regardless of residency, according to Judy Raveaux, CEO of CHANGE INC.

“Change Inc. has been on the front lines with COVID testing and administering vaccines for the community; however, our patient footprint extends beyond our West Virginia state border,” she said. “This has created difficulty with hand selecting who can have the vaccine and who cannot based on their address.”

With the availability of vaccines through the federal program, health centers are able to better plan vaccinating vulnerable populations, Kristi Atha-Rader, CEO of the Rainelle Medical Center, said.

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