Dave Mistich Published

W.Va. Prepared To Juggle Booster Shots Along With Initial Vaccinations

While the federal government plans a rollout of coronavirus vaccine booster shots, West Virginia officials are prepared to balance efforts between getting the shot to those unvaccinated, all the while offering boosters to those who have already gotten their initial doses.

Federal public health officials announced plans Wednesday to offer booster shots as early as the week of Sept. 20 to those who already got the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Although some booster shots have already been given in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice said he hopes to launch a more concerted effort before the federal rollout.

“We appreciate that they’re going to get started on September the 20th. But for God’s sakes alive — we absolutely don’t need to continue to wait until September the 20th,” Justice said.

The plan for coronavirus vaccine boosters is subject to the Food and Drug Administration “conducting an independent evaluation and determination of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Federal officials are recommending booster shots for those who have been vaccinated more than eight months ago. But Justice said he’s pushing residents — especially those more vulnerable to severe illness — to get booster shots six months after their initial vaccination.

As of Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports 57.5 percent of the state’s population aged 12-and-over is fully vaccinated. State officials report 70.1 percent of those eligible have received a first dose.

James Hoyer, who leads West Virginia’s interagency task force on the pandemic, said there would be no issues in trying to juggle efforts between new vaccinations and the booster shots.

“We’re prepared to execute doses to more unvaccinated folks, because we know we need to do that,” Hoyer said. “And we know we need to get the third dose into our most vulnerable population — and we’re prepared to do that.”

Hoyer said doses of the vaccine are so plentiful that the state will not need to implement a tiered system based on age and vulnerability for booster shots. As West Virginia executed its initial vaccine rollout, health care workers, older residents and those with pre-existing conditions were put in the front of the line.

Justice expressed frustration Wednesday over those who have yet to get their initial shots.

“It’s too late for you to decide, ‘You know, we should have gotten vaccinated.’ You can’t stop this now — what’s happened in West Virginia,” Justice said of the continued rise of the delta variant and the virus at-large. “But you can still save your own life, or lives that are around you, by getting vaccinated.”

As of Wednesday, public health officials report 7,579 active cases. Since the beginning of the pandemic 2,997 deaths have been attributed to the virus.

“I don’t have any idea how, on this planet, you could hear these numbers and not run and get vaccinated,” he said.