Chris Schulz Published

State Leaders Renew Calls For Vaccination Amid BA.5 Surge

An empty syringe on a table at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after a care worker received the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020.

As cases of the highly infectious BA.5 COVID-19 variant continue to rise, state leaders are renewing calls for West Virginians to get vaccinated and boosted.

During Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said the variant’s superpower is its ability to reinfect individuals that have recovered from other COVID-19 strains.

“The amount of our population who chooses to get their first booster dose and second booster dose, to stay up-to-date is so important in reducing the spread of the BA.5 variant in West Virginia and also protecting our citizens from the most severe consequences and death,” Marsh said.

He said the White House is considering removing restrictions for a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot, which are currently only offered to people age 50 and older.

Marsh was recently nominated to serve on the National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality. In a letter of support, the state’s congressional delegation cited his two years of work combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Jim Justice highlighted the reality that COVID-19 is here to stay, and reaffirmed the need for vaccines in that reality.

“It’s easy to see, if you’re logical and you’re reasonable, and everything, and you just look at this. It’s easy to say that this is not going away,” Justice said. “But it’s not now for us to be running in total fear of. It’s nothing we should be very respectful of. And it’s something that all of us know that we can control our destiny in many, many ways or dadgum near it with the vaccines.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer spoke about yet another COVID-19 vaccine, NovaVax.

The latest of the COVID-19 vaccines, NovaVax received recommendation for use in adults from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel earlier Tuesday, and will be available once CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gives final approval. Hoyer said its availability will be reflected on the state’s vaccine calculator.

In the meantime, Hoyer reminded West Virginians there are plenty of other vaccines available immediately.

“We have an ample supply of vaccines available,” Hoyer said. “Dr. Amjad and I were just texting back and forth a minute ago. We have over 175 providers, not including pharmacies, who are still signed up to provide vaccines. So plenty of locations are available.”