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Babydog Justice / Photo courtesy of W.Va. Governor's Office

Justice: W.Va. ready to provide extra vaccine dose to certain people with weakened immune systems following final approval

CHARLESTON — During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia is ready to begin administering an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to certain immunocompromised people immediately following final CDC approval.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Governor’s briefing Friday afternoon, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously to recommend that certain patients with weakened immune systems receive an extra dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccines.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky must now give final approval on the ACIP’s recommendation. Once she gives the green light, qualified patients will immediately begin receiving the extra dose.

“We will be ready to move forward,” Gov. Justice said. “From day one, we’ve been a national leader in regard to vaccinations, and we’re ready to go on to booster shots as well.

“We’ll get them in the arms of lots and lots of folks as quickly as we possibly can.”

Last night, the FDA provided its approval of the additional shot for people with moderate to severe immunosuppression. The FDA emphasized that other fully vaccinated people are “adequately protected” and currently do not need an extra dose.

Once again Friday, Gov. Justice and other pandemic response leaders intensified their calls for West Virginians who have not yet received their first dose to reconsider getting vaccinated, as cases, hospitalizations, and the spread of the Delta variant all continue to rise.

“If there was ever a time in your life to get vaccinated, if there was ever a time for you to get your kids vaccinated, right now’s the time,” Gov. Justice said. “You’ve got to move.”

The Governor reported that there are now 317 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant statewide; nearly double the statewide case total of 161 as of the Governor’s previous COVID-19 briefing two days ago.

The total number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has now reached 5,312; an increase of 687 from Wednesday’s case total.

The current case total is also now more than six times higher than it was five weeks ago

Hospitalizations continue to increase as well, with 312 people currently hospitalized. Of that total, 109 patients (34.9%) are in the ICU and 42 patients (13.5%) are on a ventilator.

“The frequency and the ratio of the ICU cases to total cases continues to climb,” Joint Interagency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer said. “We are in a challenging spot and we need more West Virginians to get vaccinated so that we can continue to address not only the Delta variant, but what is coming with the next couple of variants that we’ll probably see before we get to the end of this.”

“There’s more 30-to-39-year-olds in America’s hospitals than ever before in this pandemic, and we’re seeing people who are very young and otherwise healthy, who are unvaccinated, going to the ICU and being on ventilators,” State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said.

“Two very touching stories – both with pregnant moms that delivered their babies early because of the impact of COVID-19 – one mom got to feed her baby once before she died, and one mom is still in the ICU, and has only seen her baby over Zoom,” Dr. Marsh continued. “So, as we look at this pandemic continuing to grow with the Delta variant, and continuing to grow in West Virginia, we still are on the earlier side of what I believe is going to still be a turbulent time for us coming up.

“We know that the really foundational way that we can protect ourselves, and not be sources of new variant formations, is by getting fully vaccinated.”

Free COVID-19 vaccinations remain available to all West Virginians ages 12 and older.

All West Virginians interested in being vaccinated are encouraged to visit Vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice clarified that he is not preparing to require face coverings statewide at this time.

“Where we are right now, in the State of West Virginia, I see no need to put out any kind of executive order to mandate face coverings at this point in time,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re going to leave that to local control. We have a lot of good folks on the local level that are monitoring what is going on within their counties and within their cities. We’ve got to give them flexibility, because this is not a one-size-fits-all deal.

“That said, we always want to leave everything open on the table,” Gov. Justice continued. “We all know there’s no playbook and we all know that we’ve got to be fluid and we’ve got to be fast on our feet to move to the best of our abilities based on the knowledge that we have.”

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