Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

Justice and team again urge vaccine boosters for all as Rt value continues to rise

MORGANTOWN — COVID vaccine boosters remained the primary theme during Monday’s briefing from the governor’s office.

In response to a question, Gov. Jim Justice reiterated that anyone 18 and older and who’s six months past their Pfizer or Moderna shots, or two months past their Johnson & Johnson, is eligible.

“That is absolutely the message I’ve been trying to get out to people,” he said. Eligibility isn’t confined to medical conditions.

Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad said that West Virginia’s overall poor health means that many people — with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and more — would qualify anyway. But the door is open for all. “Everyone who needs a booster shot needs to go out there and get it.”

Joint Interagency Task Force Direction James Hoyer said the state’s Rt value — an indicator of the potential for spreading the virus — has climbed to .95 and is heading toward 1, meaning the potential for spread is increasing (the goal is to keep it below 1).

That means, Hoyer said, the potential for more hospitalizations, people in ICUs and on ventilators, and more deaths.

Justice was asked again if we’re facing a future of boosters every six months.

Not being a doctor, he doesn’t know for sure, he said. But it’s worthwhile if that’s what we need. “Right now we don’t have the end-all-do-all to stop this thing. What we have is a bridge that protects us for a period of time.”

Amjad reiterated that data is showing that the booster offers longer protection than the first and second doses — perhaps nine or 10 months. Some think that the first two doses of Pfizer and Moderna may have been given too close together.

But for now, she said, the timing of subsequent boosters still remains to be seen. “Whatever it takes to keep this pandemic out of our lives would be worth it.”

On other topics, Justice announced that the deadline to apply to receive a $150 school voucher through the Healthy Grandfamilies vaccination incentive program is Dec. 15. Under the program, grandparents who are raising their grandkids can get the voucher if they get themselves and their eligible grandchild vaccinated.

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