Dave Mistich Published

With Breakthrough Hospitalizations Rising, West Virginia Leaders Make Push For COVID Vaccine Boosters


With federal health agencies green-lighting coronavirus vaccine boosters from Pfizer, state leaders in West Virginia are making a push for eligible residents to get another shot. That effort comes as data show that a higher percentage of vaccinated West Virginians are making up those who are hospitalized.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Wednesday booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for a wide swath of people who received a two-dose vaccine from the same company more than six months ago, including:

  • individuals 65 years of age and older;
  • individuals 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19; and 
  • individuals 18 through 64 years of age whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.

The FDA authorization of Pfizer boosters comes as the number of West Virginians hospitalized, those in intensive care and those on ventilators has soared past earlier peak numbers recorded in January.

According to data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 1,008 West Virginians are hospitalized with the coronavirus, 289 patients are in intensive care units and 187 patients are on a ventilator.

“A bunch of these people are gonna die,” Justice said Friday, noting the continued record-breaking numbers. “We could have stopped this.”

State leaders expressed confidence earlier this week that a surge of new cases — catalyzed by the highly contagious delta variant — has peaked. However, those same officials said it’s likely that hospitalizations, other strains on medical resources and deaths could continue to rise over the coming weeks

Data also indicate that of those who are in hospitals, more and more are from “breakthrough” cases from those who are fully vaccinated.

“We have seen the numbers of fully vaccinated people who are in West Virginia hospitals start to creep up — going from about 13% to about 15% to about 17% — and now around 20% of all West Virginians hospitalized,” State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said Friday.

Marsh and Justice are encouraging anyone who had the Pfizer shot more than six months ago to get a booster.

“It is terribly important and very, very, very critical that — if you are especially outside that window — you really need to go get a booster shot,” Justice said.

Justice said that the state has plenty of extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine to accommodate boosters and new vaccinations.

“We’re ready to go and we’re ready to go with Pfizer — and absolutely we’ll let you know on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as soon as the CDC gives us the go ahead to do so,” the governor said.

Federal drug and health regulators have yet to give approval for booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccines, although those authorizations could come in the months ahead.