Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


February 04, 2021


Fill me in: This week’s Path Forward featured U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark in conversation with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice about the success the state has been having with distributing the coronavirus vaccine.

West Virginia has spent the past three weeks as either the number-one or two state in the nation for vaccine doses administered per capita, with more than 85% of its delivered vaccine doses already administered.

The Path Forwardis a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series designed to help business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy and plan for a post-pandemic world.

What happened? Gov. Justice unpacked what has worked in the Mountain State, what other states can learn from its success, and how West Virginia is engaging the private sector to help in this effort.

In addition to its success administering the vaccine, the state was the first in the nation to complete its second round of COVID-19 vaccinations at all nursing homes and assisted living facilities statewide. As of Feb. 1, West Virginia has administered 194,488 first doses and 68,392 second doses, totaling 262,880 doses administered overall statewide.

During the discussion, Justice credited the state’s success to “staying together, working hard, making the economics work, listening to the experts, and pushing the right buttons.” He also emphasized the importance of mask wearing and testing while keeping businesses and schools open.

The governor has led by example on the vaccine. In December, Justice became one of the first top elected officials in the country to receive a coronavirus vaccine declaring at the time, “Don’t hesitate, you’ve got to get this vaccine.”

Key quotes from Gov. Jim Justice at the Path Forward event:

  • “We knew this [vaccination drive] was all about age, age and age. We knew we had to develop an all-encompassing strategy with our local pharmacies, local health clinics, and National Guard. We needed to put shots in arms.”
  • “We’ve got a new system in place, maybe the first in the entire country. That basically calls our people, sets up appointments, emails, texts. So that it’s a much more orderly approach.”
  • “People all across this country—whether it be in New York, or Los Angeles, or West Virginia—people go to their local pharmacies, to their local doctors, to their local health clinics. You have to take this [the vaccine] to the people. This model can work anywhere in this country.”
  • “As we get more and more vaccines and we ramp up production…employers stepping up and having their own [vaccination] clinics is a good idea.”
  • “As far as wearing a mask and the testing, testing, testing—without question we ought to continue to do exactly just that. As far as the social distancing and using our head…All those prudent things, absolutely, I preach every single day.”
  • “Do we need be in school? Of course, we need to be in school.”
  • “From the standpoint of our livelihoods and businesses, we have got to stay open. When we shut down the economic engine of this country, it is catastrophic beyond belief.”
  • “I took the vaccine right at the get-go in front of everybody because I wanted everybody to see that I really trusted the FDA, the CDC, and all the medical community.”

Our take:Don’t forget—wearing a mask and social distancing make a big difference in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus.

It’s also vital that Americans get vaccinated or have a plan to get vaccinated once supplies become available for their group. The approved vaccines are safe, widely available and help protect you, your family and others—so make getting one a priority. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area, contact your local health department.

What’s next: Please join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect your workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus.

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About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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