West Virginia Governor Jim Justice Anxious To Begin COVID-19 Booster Shots
WHEELING — The Biden Administration has announced COVID-19 booster shots will be made available to the public as soon as Sept. 20, but West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says that’s not soon enough.
He also wants to see more young West Virginians vaccinated, and said the state soon will roll out a new incentive program to help make that happen.
Justice indicated during a virtual briefing with reporters Wednesday the state will start the process of providing the third shot of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to those already immunized as soon as state medical officials say it is safe.
The CDC has suggested the booster shots could be necessary eight months after the initial vaccinations. But state officials on Wednesday said the state’s “Battlefield Booster Assessment Program” research has indicated a loss in antibodies provided by the vaccine after just six months.
Justice said he had his own antibody level tested six months after vaccination. The test indicated he had “a level of protection,” but that the antibody level had lowered.
“I truly believe without a doubt… that people six months out should be vaccinated,” Justice said.
He said while it may be a “humanitarian thing” to want to export extra vaccines to other countries, he believes in putting the health of West Virginians and Americans first.
“My medical team is going to guide me,” Justice said. “If they tell me we can move forward this afternoon, we’re going to move forward this afternoon. We should be vaccinating people today.”
Justice was asked whether boosters shot will be made available to the public the same way the initial doses were early this year. A tiered system was used by which those in nursing homes and seniors received their vaccinations first, followed by middle aged then young adults.
James Hoyer, director of the West Virginia Joint Agency Task Force, explained the tiering was necessary at the time as the state received a limited number of vaccine doses at one time. That has changed now, and there are enough doses available to both inoculate those who have yet received their vaccination and also provide booster shots.
“We have already been working with our hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living leadership teams,” Hoyer said. “We will be getting those doses out quickly to those populations. It is the governor’s priority to reduce the number of deaths and maintain the integrity of our hospital system, but we will not have to tier like we did the last time.
“The vaccines are ample and available, and we have access to them to give the third dose to those in our population who need it as soon as possible.”
Justice also said that, on Friday, he will introduce a new incentive program to follow up on the “Do It For Babydog” lottery. The new program will focus on getting young adults to be vaccinated.
He reported there have been seven additional deaths from COVID in the state since Monday, and additional deaths were also added to the figures. West Virginia’s death toll from COVID now stands at 2,997, according to Justice.
“We’re three people short of 3,000 West Virginians that have died,” he said. “It’s been a long, long, long year and a half. I know all of us want so much to be back to normal, but have to deal with what we’ve got.
Justice denied he “feared” making decisions to issue mandates that might anger the public, such as requiring the wearing of masks at school or in other public places.
“I’m not fearful,” he said. “But what scares me is what if we awake to a situation where a lot of people die, and the ‘hell no’s’ then start running to get a dose of the vaccine. We don’t want that to happen.”
Justice also touched on a couple of other subjects during his Wednesday briefing.
He was asked whether West Virginia would be willing to take in any refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
“That’s the most God-awfulest disaster America could put on display that you could ever imagine,” he said of the withdrawal of troops there. “As far as taking people in,… we are a long ways from something like that coming to my desk…. As far as bringing in (refugees), that’s a decision for later.”
Justice also congratulated Benwood native Kim Nuckles, Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator for West Virginia, for taking on a second job as state equal Employment opportunities director.
Nuckles is a 1997 graduate of the former Wheeling-Jesuit University and 2001 graduate of the West Virginia University School of Law, according to Justice.