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For more than two years, Gov. Jim Justice has urged West Virginians to get their COVID-19 vaccines. During the height of the pandemic, he called people foolish for not getting all their shots.
In a media briefing on May 11, Justice responded to this question from WSAZ reporter Curtis Johnson.
“With the end of the pandemic emergency, is there a specific subset of people that you and your administration worry about the most?” Johnson asked. “What’s your message to those people?”
Justice said during the pandemic, he didn’t have a playbook and tried to follow the federal government’s lead. But, in the briefing, he also referenced the West Virginians that chose to push back in regard to the vaccines.
“There’s a group that I would worry about in this day and time with the information that we have,” Justice said. “That group would have been the group that did not get vaccinated, but they may very well end up being the group that is the safest and healthiest.”
In his next media briefing on May 17, Randy Yohe with West Virginia Public Broadcasting asked Justice if his statement on those not vaccinated being the “safest and healthiest” was contradictory to his vaccine support all along. He answered by saying there is new scientific medical information now to consider that natural immunities are not the “smoke and mirrors” thought of in the beginning of the pandemic.
“Now, we’re told that the natural immunities, once you’ve had COVID, are real,” Justice said. “This has surely been a big-time moving target.”
Justice said if he had to do it all over, with the science he understood then, he would have still encouraged people to get their vaccines and boosters.
Justice remarked that he was fully vaccinated and still had COVID-19 twice – but he called the shots a lifesaver.
“I believe with all in me, if I hadn’t been vaccinated, it could have been really, really, really bad,” he said.
Justice said West Virginians should continue learning from the evolving scientific information on COVID-19.