Healthcare, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Justice addresses rumors regarding CDC COVID immunization vote, touts his car tax bill

MORGANTOWN – Gov. Jim Justice on Monday added his 2 cents to the raging debate about the CDC’s latest COVID vaccine action, and took another swipe in the Amendment 2 battle.

Last Thursday, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to add approved COVID-19 vaccines to the immunization schedules for children and adults, including for school entry.

The move sparked media and social media outrage, and fears that this would turn into a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for kids in school.

Justice addressed what he called the rumors during his Monday COVID briefing.

“West Virginia will not, will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for kids,” he said. While his will may be overridden, “in all my power I do not think that’s the right thing to do.”

He encourages vaccines, he said, but it’s a family choice. He said he will fight to prevent the federal government or the state Legialature from mandating vaccines.

“We’ve pulled the rope together, all of us, haven’t we,” he said. “If you absolutely want us to fragment us in every direction known to man, then come up with something as ridiculous as this.”

A reporter noted that it’s only a recommendation at this point. Justice said, “There’s enough smoke that theres got to be some fire.” Parents are raising questions, he said, adding, “I don’t want them afraid.”

The CDC says on its website it recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older, and boosters for everyone ages 5 years and older if eligible.

It said after Thursday’s ACIP vote, “CDC only makes recommendations for use of vaccines, while school-entry vaccination requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions.

“It’s important to note,” CDC said, “that there are no changes in COVID-19 vaccine policy, and today’s action simply helps streamline clinical guidance for healthcare providers by including all currently licensed, authorized and routinely recommended vaccines in one document. The updated schedules and program guidance will be published in early 2023.”

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh pointed out again that cases tied to the omicron BA.5 variant are diminishing, but two new omicron variants, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, are picking up.

The BQ variants are more infectious than BA.5, he said, and aren’t fazed by treatments with monoclonal antibodies or by treatments for the immunocompromised. It is susceptible, though, to the omicron boosters.

New York City, he said, is seeing hospitalizations tied to the BQ variants pick up, and West Virginia will follow in several weeks – as it always runs a few weeks behind the national trends.

Amendment 2

On Oct. 11, Justice announced his Car and All Vehicles Tax Elimination and Protection of Local Government Act, which would credit property taxes paid on certain vehicles back to taxpayers without amending the West Virginia Constitution, as proposed by Amendment 2.

It would come in the form of a credit applied against income tax liability, and would be retroactive to Jan. 1.

He said on Monday he’d put it on a special session agenda if the Legislature was ready to deal with it but it will be the first bill he introduces during the 2023 regular session, which starts in January.

“I’d be stunned of one person votes against it,” he said. The money for it will come from surplus funds.

With his bill, he said, Amendment 2 isn’t needed. “The car tax is gone, through my rebate program, is gone.”

He added a new dig against the state Senate, which defeated his House-supported bill to cut the personal income tax during the July special session.

“It was all driven by the sinister forces of Amendment 2,” he said.

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