West Virginia wants to introduce fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that he will ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow the fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to be offered to residents 50 and older, as well as key workers.

At a press conference, Justice pointed to Israel, which last month became one of the first countries to approve a fourth dose of the vaccine for people most vulnerable to COVID-19 as it prepares for a wave of infections caused by the omicron variant.

“We have to do something,” Justice said. “Either we relax and just let our people die, or we relax and let our hospitals get overcrowded, or we try. If the CDC comes back and says no, we won’t be able to do it now, and then there will be enough governors walking together, we will definitely go with them. And then we can cross the finish line this way. “

Justice, a Republican, will be one of the first state leaders to ask the CDC for a fourth COVID-19 shot. About half of West Virginia’s population is fully vaccinated.

“We haven’t seen what omicron will do,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, a government coronavirus expert. “The effectiveness of these vaccines is dwindling. We cannot afford to let our most vulnerable people get sick with COVID-19.

“This is a critical time for us. We hope we can make a quick decision. ”

West Virginia is the third oldest country in the country, with nearly 20% of its 1.79 million residents over 65. The state also dwarfs most others in terms of the percentage of people with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The request for justice came when West Virginia set a pandemic record for the number of daily positive coronavirus cases.

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There were 3,345 confirmed cases on Thursday, up 29% from the previous high of 2,585 set last Friday. According to the HHS virus panel, daily positive records have been broken four times in the past week, including three straight days last week.

The number of people hospitalized due to the virus is also growing. There were 758 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 557 on Christmas Day, health officials said. The record is 1012 people, set on September 24.

According to James Hoyer, head of the state’s task force on coronavirus, concerns about hospitalizations are driven by bed shortages and hospital staffing. About 1,700 nurses have refused to renew their state licenses in 2020.

Justice said 68% of those who left the field were called “just tired” and “pushed to the limit” by the strains of the pandemic.

The state has adjusted the number of active cases based on CDC recommendations, which now reflect the duration of active status at five days instead of 10 days. The total number of active cases on Wednesday was nearly 12,000, down from nearly 18,900 on Tuesday.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, about 5,400 people have died in West Virginia.

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