Editorials, Opinion

Justice overcame COVID — thanks to vaccine, booster

After a bout with COVID-19, Gov. Jim Justice is back in the saddle and once again leading his COVID briefings. We’re glad to hear the governor is feeling much better.

Justice rightfully credits the brevity and relative mildness of his illness to being both fully vaccinated and boosted. As the experts keep telling us — and as anecdotal evidence illustrates — those who are recently fully vaccinated and/or boosted experience a much less severe case of COVID. Justice felt worse than many of our vaccinated compatriots — quite a few of whom reported only cold-like symptoms — but the governor may have complicating risk factors of which the public is not fully aware.

But ultimately, being fully vaccinated and receiving the booster may have saved Justice’s life.

Hopefully, people won’t look at Justice’s recent illness as proof the COVID vaccine and/or booster aren’t worth getting. What we all must understand is that the COVID vaccines and boosters are like seatbelts: Just like a seatbelt can’t guarantee you’ll never have a car wreck, the COVID vaccine can’t guarantee you’ll never get sick. But like a seatbelt, the vaccine and booster make it much less likely you’ll end up in the hospital or worse.

We’ve been encouraging readers to get vaccinated for over a year, and now we’re encouraging everyone to get the booster shot.

We know it’s frustrating, and annoying, and — for the needle-adverse — varying degrees of terrifying, but the booster shot makes a world of difference. So much so that the CDC changed its definition of “fully vaccinated” to mean someone has received one or two vaccine shots (depending on the brand of vaccine) as well as a booster shot. In fact, The Monongalia County Commission updated its vaccination policy for county employees to reflect this new standard.

Unfortunately, the vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time — but it still lasts longer than “natural” immunity acquired from having COVID. While this continues to be a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” we are seeing an uptick in breakthrough cases and hospitalizations. While the vast majority of COVID patients in the hospital have not been vaccinated at all, the percentage of hospitalizations that are vaccinated jumped to 30.8%, 15.3% of ICU cases and 9.6% of patients on ventilators. It is very likely we are seeing this increase because initial vaccine immunity is fading, and too few people are getting their booster shots. At the time of this writing, less than 40% of people who had been fully vaccinated have also been boosted.

If it’s been more than five months since you received a second Pfizer or Moderna dose, you can and should get a booster shot. If you received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and it’s been more than two months, then you should definitely get boosted. The CDC approved mixing and matching for booster shots, so if you didn’t like the way the vaccine made you feel, you can consider getting a booster from a different brand. If you have questions or concerns about which type of vaccine or booster is right for you, please consult with a doctor or your primary care provider, if you have one.