West Virginians are phoning it in when it comes to COVID vaccinations — and their numbers look good.
Despite leading the nation in drug overdoses, diabetes and deaths by accident, the Mountain State is peaking when it comes to getting shots into the arms of its 1.8 million citizens, according to NPR. And the state in part credits its telephone hotline for coming to the aid of locals who either don’t have access to the internet or don’t know how to use it.
Health officials in West Virginia became concerned that they were facing a communications problem in December after seeing scores of elderly folks standing outside a health department building hours before vaccinations were available there because they’d gotten word from the governor that citizens 80 and older were eligible for shots.
The head of the state’s COVID-19 task force for vaccines, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, saw a photo of that confused, slow-moving situation in a local paper the next day and knew he had to make a plan that would keep citizens in the loop; particularly elderly people he saw lining up with walkers and wheelchairs.
His plan: a telephone hotline.
Hoyer’s team went to work in setting up such a system and West Virginians responded well, calling for information on when and where to get inoculated and booking appointments the old-fashioned way.
Because of his state’s modest population, Hoyer was able to task West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office with manning the phones rather than outsourcing the job to a private company. He says the average wait time for callers is roughly six minutes.
“Not bad for a bunch of hillbillies,” Hoyer told NPR.
Just under 10% of Hoyer’s state has been vaccinated which, along with Alaska, ranks among the nation’s greatest success stories so far. That also marks one of the highest vaccination rates worldwide, NPR reports.