Emily Rice Published

Officials Advise Summer Vaccination Before Vacation

A 3D rendering of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spike ball.
As the number of COVID-19 cases across the country soars, West Virginians have access to a new tool to check their vaccination status.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

As the summer season gets into full swing, so has the most recent surge of COVID-19 cases across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as of last week, rates of COVID-19 infections are growing or likely growing in 44 states and territories. West Virginia is categorized as “likely growing.”

On Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Health’s (DH) Bureau for Public Health announced it has launched a new portal tool for residents to access their immunization history.

Data is sourced from the Statewide Immunization Information System and can be accessed from any computer or smart device after completing a short registration process. The tool is called MyIRMobile and not only allows users to look up their own immunization history but also add dependents.

“This is a tool that you can use for your own education as an adult that you can also use for your children and to keep your family safe,” DH Secretary, Dr. Sherri Young, said.

Young said to contact your physician if your MyIRMobile records show you are past due for any vaccinations.

“I didn’t realize it had been seven years since I had my tetanus shot,” she added. “That gives me the knowledge to go and talk to my health care provider.”

Young said the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved to include at-home testing, reducing the amount of data the DH receives on positivity rates because people don’t report their cases to their physicians.

“If you do have that positive COVID test, get to your health care provider for that early intervention because there are medications that we can treat to decrease the symptoms and decrease the duration of the COVID symptoms as well,” Young said.

She also said cases of COVID-19, the common cold or even the flu may not affect an average healthy adult, but can still affect children, those who are immunocompromised and the elderly adversely.

“We do have that vulnerability there that if we know that we may be exposed to COVID, for the people around us try to limit your exposures, especially to folks who may be more vulnerable,” Young said. “And always, if you are vaccine eligible for COVID, get that vaccine because that helps keep that immunity going and helps your recovery time as well.”

The CDC is recommending everyone ages 6 months and older receive an updated 2024-2025 COVID-19 vaccine, even if they’ve been inoculated against COVID-19 before, because the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is always changing and protection from COVID-19 vaccines decline over time.

According to the CDC, the updated vaccine can restore and enhance protection against the virus variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the U.S. 

From May 4, 2024 to June 22, 2024, the CDC reported a 23.3 percent increase in emergency department visits diagnosed as COVID-19. However, from April 20, 2024 to June 8, 2024, there was no change in the COVID-19 hospitalization rate nationally.

Young recommended planning ahead and using available data to protect yourself and your family during summer travel.

“The best thing to do is to be well-informed for the places that you’re going, know what those rates are, help get the prevention that you need,” she said. “Take this tool, see if you are due for a COVID shot before you go traveling, especially into an area where you’re seeing an uptick, and that’s a great way to protect yourself.”

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) was split into three agencies by an act of the West Virginia Legislature in 2023. One of those new departments is the DH.

In October 2023, the DHHR stopped tracking COVID-19 cases on a dashboard, as had been standard practice throughout the pandemic, and modified the dashboard to track all respiratory illnesses.

According to that dashboard, last updated on June 28, 2024, West Virginia’s influenza indicators are minimal and falling. COVID-19 weekly hospitalization rates have fallen, while emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms increased by 1.34 percent.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Marshall Health.