Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

WV gears up for September vaccine booster shots

MORGANTOWN – While just under 30% of the state’s eligible population remains unvaccinated, West Virginia is now looking to some extent to Sept. 20, when the U.S government says it will make booster shots available for all Americans who are eight months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna dose.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said data from Israel, which is the most vaccinated nation in the world, shows that the most vulnerable portion of the population – age 60 and up – who are fully vaccinated are experiencing breakthrough infections and hospitalizations. This is particularly the case for those who received both doses in January, as opposed to those who were vaccinated in April and are still well protected.

The increased infectiousness of Delta plus a loss of vaccine potency both appear to be playing a role in the need for boosters, he said. But among those getting the third shot, Israel is seeing an 86% reduction in severe infections and breakthroughs.

Gov. Jim Justice aid he’d rather not wait until September to get those shots rolling. “We’re making too many mistakes. We need to move. Sept. 20 to me just isn’t going to cut it.”

However, he didn’t commit to starting West Virginia earlier, saying he’ll abide by the advice of his medical team.

The boosters, so far, will be just for those with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The CDC and FDA said in a joint statement that those who received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine also will likely need a booster, but the J&J vaccines didn’t begin until March and they expect more data on it in the next few weeks.

The state has seen 3,204 breakthrough cases (among the vaccinated), Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said, with 53% of them occurring in nursing homes. But out of 895,000 people vaccinated, those breakthroughs represent only .36% – just over a third of a percent – of the total.

Wednesday’s case numbers reflected 700 cases added to the dashboard following last week’s system upgrade. Active cases stood at 7,579, with 421 hospitalized and 133 in ICUs. Delta cases climbed to 458. Eleven counties were red, including Wetzel; only three were green; Monongalia and Marion were orange, while Preston was gold.

“I don’t have any idea how you could hear these number and not run and get vaccinated,” Justice said. He repeated Monday’s information that a Kentucky study showed those who had been infected couldn’t rely solely on that for protection: they were 2.5 times more likely to get COVID again versus someone who’s vaccinated. “It’s a gamble I don’t see how you take.”

But he’s still not ready for a mask mandate. “We believe the local control is working and it’s working in a good fashion. … I am trying to balance and keep us all together. It is very, very hard.”

Finally, Justice said he’ll announcing a new vaccine incentive program on Friday aimed at getting younger residents vaccinated.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp EMAIL