MORGANTOWN – The Justice team again Thursday urged COVID vaccinations and boosters for all West Virginia residents.
They also fielded a question about discrepancies in the vaccine numbers of the Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 dashboard. On Tuesday, they had discussed updated numbers based on data reconciliation, with the total number fully vaccinated dropping by roughly 20,000.
But Thursday’s dashboard still showed problems.
The front page of the dashboard, for example, listed 2,182,209 total vaccine doses administered while the vaccine page showed 2,138,794. There were similar problems for people receiving at least one dose and for the fully vaccinated.
The front page showed 1,063,487 with a first does and 894,333 fully vaccinated; the vaccine page showed 1,048,372 with a first dose and 867,598 fully vaccinated.
Gov. Jim Justice commented, “I wasn’t very happy that we spent a lot of money. … All of us are constantly trying to do better and better regarding the tracking.”
Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer offered the explanation.
The numbers did change, and a big reason was data entry discrepancies.
He offered the example of someone who got their first, second and booster doses at three different sites. Their name might be typed in slightly differently at each site, and that would result in three different people being reported as getting first doses.
They used some computer algorithms to clean it up, he said, and Justice presses them every day to provide accurate data. “We’re doing the best we can to maintain a high level of accuracy of information.”
Turning to the topic of boosters, Justice said, “We have a big lag going on right now with our seniors.”
The dashboard shows just 26.6% of those age 61-70 have received boosters and just 31.8% age 71 and up. Justice has repeatedly expressed bafflement at the low numbers when the fully vaccinated (two doses of Pfizer and Moderna, one dose of Johnon & Johnson) among those age groups are 71.2% and 75.1%, respectively.
He’s said he doesn’t understand why they made the effort the first time and aren’t bothering now, when seniors are the most susceptible to COVID.
Justice said he’ll soon unveil a senior incentive program that will include all 55 counties. “We have a real serious need to motivate them in every way to get that going.”
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh addressed a question about the prospects of some new oral and injectable medications that will come to the market.
Pfizer and Merck are producing antiviral pills that can be taken at home, he said, to combat serious manifestations of COVID. Merck’s molnupiravir has performed less well than Pfizer’s Paxlovid in studies but both still are useful tools. They’re not affected by mutations, because they work on parts of the virus that allow it to replicate and live.
Merck’s has received the FDA OK, Marsh said, and is waiting on CDC approval. It reduces severely symptomatic disease by 30% and death by 90% in people who tested positive within three days of symptoms arising.
Paxlovid, he said, saw a reduction of severely symptomatic disease by 89% and reduction in death by 100% for people who tested positive within three days.
“The critical factor there is to identify people very early in the course of their infection and get the treatment right away,” he said.
Also, he said, AstraZeneca is working on an injectable antibody cocktail that could help the immunocompromised who may not respond well to the vaccines.
It’s injected twice, he said, and offers protection for six to nine months.
But they aren’t on the market yet and Marsh repeated the booster chorus. “If you’re eligible, please get boosted,” he said. West Virginia has a highly vulnerable population. “That should be our number one priority.”