CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – As the COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out, community leaders are calling on health officials to prioritize Charleston’s West Side.
This is due to having a vulnerable population of the elderly and the African American community.
Grace Bible Church Pastor Matthew Watts has been on the frontline advocating for his community since the start of the pandemic. He pushed for more COVID-19 testing and now he’s pushing for priority vaccinations.
“We are a vulnerable population on the west side of Charleston because of the age, because of the poor underlying health conditions and because of the close proximity in which people live,” Rev. Watts said.
Watts believes the west side is now at risk more than ever because of the cold weather and people gathering in tight spaces.
“We have a high homeless population and I feel like we’ve dodged a bullet with COVID-19 because we are sort of an insular community, but now a lot of the homeless people are cold – gathering together getting very close, huddling up in abandoned houses,” Rev. Watts said.
How the vaccines are distributed is not the decision of individual health departments.
“At this point we remain restricted by the CDC on how we can distribute that vaccine. We do have a limited supply at this time, but once we have ample supply of the COVID-19 vaccine we can enact our plan that we developed months ago,” Monica mason, Chief of Medical Services at Kanawha County Ambulance Authority.
When more vaccines become available, Watts says there needs to be transparency.
“We think it needs to be placed on the website. X number of vaccines are going to this county and we would like to see the counties flexibility to prioritize how they think the vaccines should be distributed because they know their counties best,” Rev. Watts said.
Even though the west side may be at high risk, COVID-19 hasn’t been too rough.
“We believe we’ve been vulnerable all along. We’ve just been fortunate by the grace of God we have not had a heavy spread in this community,” Rev. Watts said.
Since last week’s vaccination clinic, approximately 1450 people 80 and older population have been vaccinated.
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