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HUNTINGTON — Some companies are reporting workplace clinics are an effective and easy way to get employees vaccinated quickly.

J.H. Fletcher & Co., located at 402 High Street in Huntington, is a world leader in the design and manufacturing of roof drills, bolters, scaling machines, drill jumbos and specialty equipment that improve safety and productivity in underground mines. Company president Rod Duncan says an on-site COVID vaccine clinic has helped drive up the vaccination rate among the company’s workforce of 250 employees.

“We were able to get over 101 vaccinations to our employees and their family members by setting up a clinic on-site,” he said. “The on-site clinic made it more convenient for our employees and their families to get vaccinated by having easier and earlier access.”

The clinics took place in March and April, according to Duncan, and all began after the company was contacted by the West Virginia Manufacturers Association.

“We started working with them at the end of last year by first getting employees to register in the state’s system and then later in getting the opportunity to do on-site vaccinations,” he said.

Duncan says vials of the vaccine were sent to Assured Care in Huntington, which administered the shots at the workplace clinic and documented them.

Rebecca R. McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association (WVMA), said she was contacted by the state’s Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) for COVID-19 Vaccinations in December.

“Manufacturers were part of phase 1D of the state’s vaccination plan as essential industry, and the WVMA was asked to serve as a liaison between the JIATF and the state’s manufacturers as the vaccination plan rolled out and evolved,” she said.

McPhail says WVMA facilitated a survey for the JIATF for companies interested in on-site clinics.

“In the beginning we collected information from manufacturers related to number of vaccinations needed within certain regions of the state to assist in compiling information in the Vaccination Administration Management System,” she explained. “When the state moved to the EverBridge portal, we provided manufacturers with information about who could register, as the demographic qualifiers changed, and fielded questions about use of the registration process. Through this we worked closely with the JIATF to identify and address registration challenges for those who were phase 1D eligible.”

After that the JIAFT took it from there, she said.

Once the COVID-19 vaccines became available, Gov. Jim Justice created the JIATF by executive order in December 2020 to map out a course of action for getting shots in arms.

Led by retired Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer, the task force included the Department of Health and Human Resources, the West Virginia National Guard, the Division of Emergency Management, the Higher Education Policy Commission, the West Virginia Hospital Association, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the West Virginia Health Care Association and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University.

Joe Peal, deputy director of JIAFT, said the task force looked for ways to communicate and share information to make decisions on the vaccination effort.

“Working with the West Virginia Manufacturers Association gave us one point of contact for many organizations and companies,” he said. “They helped us build timelines to be able in early March to plan some manufacturing company vaccine clinics.”

Peal says the strategy was to get shots in the arms of those in the 16 to 44 age group.

“This age group makes up a heavy part of the state’s workforce,” he said.

While 78% of those over 65 years old have been vaccinated, 36% have received one dose and only 31% are fully vaccinated, state data show.

“This joint effort is another tool to reach West Virginia’s workforce population,” Peal said.

Peal said an on-site clinic at a coal mine in McDowell County made it possible for over 100 miners and their family members to get the vaccine.

“Some of them told us they probably wouldn’t have gone to get it on their own,” he said.

McPhail said the onsite clinics were safe, easy to access and very convenient for employees.

“They were also helpful to employers who could provide an opportunity to be vaccinated while managing workforce related to plant operations and workflow,” she said.

Peal says the task force has expanded to include the West Virginia Primary Care Association, the state Board of Pharmacy, the Department of Corrections, representatives from the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The JIATF’s approach represents speed and efficiency at its finest,” said Janice Barlow, acting regional administrator of FEMA Region 3. “But more than that, their strategy is helping people in need, and FEMA is honored to be able to provide the resources to help ensure its continued success.”

Peal added that the opportunity for on-site vaccine clinics is also open to churches, sporting events, fairs and festivals, food banks and others.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD or email him at fpace@hdmediallc.com.

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