Chris Schulz Published

New Variant, Long COVID, Spur Renewed Calls For Vaccination

A study by the National Institutes of Health this week suggests people who got the J&J vaccine as their initial vaccination against the coronavirus may get their best protection from choosing an mRNA vaccine as the booster.

The latest COVID-19 variant is getting the attention of state leaders and they are renewing calls for vaccination.

During his COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice reestablished the need for COVID vaccines and boosters in West Virginia’s population.

“When we’re sitting here telling you over and over and over that this isn’t gone, and this is highly contagious, how smart is it to have been vaccinated and not go get your booster shot?” Justice said. “It’s not very smart because your immunity for all practical purposes is gone. And you’re just winging it.”

His position was affirmed by COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh, who warned that rises in cases are likely linked to the latest subvariant, called BA.5, which is already the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country.

“We know that data from the CDC would suggest that people over 50 years old who have gotten their primary vaccine series and at least two boosters have a 42 times reduced risk of death than people that have been unvaccinated.”

Marsh encouraged the use of the state’s vaccine calculator for those unsure about their next shot. He also warned that prior infection with other COVID-19 strains does not appear to protect against BA.5.

“We know that this variant has the superpower to be able to evade the immune response that people may have had if they had been infected with previous variants,” he said.

Marsh ended his statement by focusing on the emerging information about the impacts of long COVID.

“We know that long COVID is becoming a bigger issue,” he said. “In the most recent study, up to 25 percent of people that have had COVID to at some point, have developed symptoms that would be consistent with long COVID.”

Marsh identified more mild symptoms of long COVID-19 as fatigue and shortness of breath, but also listed brain fog and blood clotting leading to strokes in younger patients. He stressed that vaccination appears to increase protection against these long-term effects.