Healthcare, Latest News, State Government, West Virginia Legislature

Justice celebrates CDC’s OK of COVID vaccine for ages 5-11, doctor vaccinates her young son during briefing

MORGANTOWN – The CDC on Tuesday approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 and Gov. Jim Justice celebrated the news during his Wednesday briefing with an on-air vaccination.

Dr. Jessica McColley, with Cabin Creek Health Systems, appeared with her son, Jacob Thomas, 7. She said children’s health systems are better than adults’, and research shows that kids gain a robust immune response from a 10-microgram dose – a third of the adult 30 mcg dose.

Jacob said he was taking the vaccine for the sake of his baby sister, Eloise, who’s too young to get it.

McColley gave Jacob the quick shot and covered the spot with a Spider-Man bandage. Justice then brought Babydog on to say hi to Jacob.

In its announcement about the kids vaccine, CDC said, “COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as ‘long COVID,’ in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a six-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold.”

COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh said kids are more frequently asymptomatic but can spread COVID just as easily as adults. About 8,300 kids have been hospitalized and about 44% of the MIS-C cases have occurred among ages 5-11.

In response to a question about a possible vaccine incentive program for kids, Justice said he expects something may roll out early next week.

And he responded with cautious optimism to a question about vaccinated kids spelling the end for school mask mandates. As we move forward with kids’ vaccines, he said, it’s his opinion they won’t need to continue mask mandates for schools.

We’re still a few weeks out from such a move, he said, as we watch to see if cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline, and how the cold weather affects the spread of the virus. There may be an opportunity, he said, for local schools to revisit the mask mandates at the right time.

Marsh took a few moments to make the case for adult boosters. He cited a study of 728,000 people from Israel that showed boosters for adults age 40 and up saw – in comparison to a group that didn’t take boosters – 93% reduction in hospitalizations, 92% protection from needing a ventilator and an 81% reduction in deaths.

The Dominion Post raised a question about HB 335, the vaccine exemption bill, citing the debate during the special legislative session regarding religious exemptions. It was argued then that employers have vetting processes in place to determine the validity of the employee’s claim, but the bill requires nothing more than a notarized certificate, with the notary verifying nothing more than the employee’s ID.

There were three broad objections to the bill: it undermines employer vetting processes; it potentially violates state and federal regulations governing religious and medical exemptions; and it sets up possible litigation and loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch took the question.

“The Legislature did pass a law that may be in conflict with federal statutes, so,as you said, there may be lawsuits in regard to this bill,” he said.

It doesn’t take effect until Jan. 18, so they hope things will get a bit more sorted out by then. “We certainly understand the concerns.” There have always been religious and medical exemptions that they’ve always honored.

“The issue may be the interpretation of those as we go forward. We’ll have more on that as we approach January,” he said.

Justice added to that a bit later, saying, “My feelings are rock solid. I sent the bill up I stand rock solid behind the feeling.” He wants everyone to get vaccinated but recognizes individual freedoms

“I do not think we should be terminating people from their jobs because of their individual beliefs,” he said. And he hopes that by then it’ll be a moot point.

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