BY CARRIE HODOUSEK
CHARLESTON — State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said West Virginians should have a better idea by the end of this week of who should receive the new COVID-19 vaccine.
“Our hope is by the end of the week we will have the ability for people to start to schedule and receive these new updated shots,” Marsh said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
A new Pfizer and Moderna COVID booster gained approval Monday from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could follow suit during an advisory meeting with further recommendations on who should get the shot.
The updated vaccines will be available for those 6 months and older.
Marsh said the new shot is designed to increase protection against a new Omicron variant that seems to be spreading quickly.
“We’ve seen about a 16% increase in hospitalizations and about a 10% increase in deaths over the last week or two around the country and that’s still much lower than it was at the peak, but it tells us that it is probably important for people particularly at the highest risk to consider getting this vaccine,” he said.
Marsh said adults and children should consult with their doctors before moving ahead with the new booster. He said there could be an annual vaccine, much like the flu, to respond to different variants this time of year.
“The goal is to have at the very least a yearly vaccine or booster shot that is targeted against the changing variant of COVID-19,” he said.
Not only does the vaccine prevent the risk of severe illness and death, Marsh said it also protects a person from spreading COVID to others. Unlike it was two or three years ago, the population is more immune to the virus, he said.
“We’re in a different state because about 97% of our population has immunity either from vaccines, infection, recovery or a combination of the two, so we’re in a different position than we were early in the pandemic,” Marsh said.
Marsh said it’s especially important for those at high risk like individuals who are elderly or immunocompromised to get vaccinated.
“The more times you’re infected, perhaps the risk goes up a little bit. We know that being up to date with vaccination reduces that risk by about 50%,” he said.
Private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, should fully cover the cost of the boosters, which will be available at pharmacies and healthcare providers. For those who are uninsured, the Biden administration has authorized bridge funds left over from the pandemic through 2024 to allow for free shots.