Vaccination rates against the coronavirus in West Virginia are climbing by the smallest of increments over the past couple of weeks. The latest numbers available from the Department of Health and Human Resources showed only 36% of the state is fully vaccinated.
We’ve suggested that Gov. Jim Justice drop the gimmicks, such as offering savings bonds — something that seems increasingly unlikely to actually happen — to entice those between the ages of 16 and 35 to get vaccinated. Instead, Justice should expand his message.
It seems there might be some movement on that, although not through any effort on Justice’s part. The governor said during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday that the West Virginia Broadcasters Association approached him with the idea of promoting the vaccine on their airwaves. Getting the message anywhere outside of Justice’s thrice-weekly, online briefings can only help.
It’s also encouraging that a massive auto-call, text and email blast that went out earlier in the week resulted in nearly 1,000 more West Virginians scheduling appointments to get vaccinated.
Another thing Justice can do for free to help the vaccination effort is to start his briefings on time. Justice is frequently late in getting started, which might result in those who are tuning in to the livestream dropping off before it gets underway. The governor was an hour late for Wednesday’s briefing, but blamed it on a miscue from his communications team (ever the consummate leader, Justice is yet to admit having made a single mistake in his time in office).
In any event, persistent delays aren’t a great way to maximize Justice’s message to whatever audience he still has.
Opening up the briefings would help, as well. It’s clear they can be done safely with masks and social distancing, not to mention that the governor and most of his staff are vaccinated. If reporters could be present, better questions with followups could be asked, which produces more relevant information for the public. It also might encourage local TV news to carry the briefings live again for a time, rather than remaining online only.
Justice is begging West Virginians to get vaccinated, but a look at the numbers says his message is no longer reaching new audiences, or they’ve tuned him out. If West Virginia is going to get to a level of vaccination to establish herd immunity sometime in the near future, things have to change.