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State officials continue to encourage vaccine

Contributed JUSTICE — Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia gestures while reading the ages and counties of residence of people whose deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 during a pandemic briefing Friday in Charleston.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia officials Friday encouraged residents to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We know that boosters are a very important part of our strategies to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread and severe COVID-19 in West Virginia,” Dr. Clay Marsh, coronavirus leader in West Virginia, said during Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday clarified requirements for the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson booster shots, Marsh said.

Those who received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine also can choose a booster of either vaccine, he said. People who got a Johnson and Johnson vaccine can either get a Johnson and Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer booster shot, Marsh said.

“There’s data out there that a first dose of Johnson and Johnson followed by a second dose of Moderna or Pfizer can really elevate the antibody levels, which we can presume is good,” he said.

The mixing of the vaccines is safe and effective, Marsh said.

“The indications for the Moderna boost, which is new as of (Friday), is that people who are over 65 years old and six months after their second dose qualify. The same with Pfizer. If you’re 18 and over and you have a high-risk medical condition that puts you in a higher risk of having severe COVID-19, if you live in an extended-care facility or a congregate setting, or if you have a high-risk occupation that exposes you to others that puts you at risk of developing or getting infected with COVID-19, then all those groups can get boosted,” Marsh said.

The ground rules are just about anyone who has had a first or second dose would be eligible for a boost dose, Marsh said.

Much of Justice’s briefing dealt with issues other than the pandemic.

He cited stories by “Good Morning America” that aired on Friday about the New River Gorge and programs encouraging people to move to West Virginia. The state’s image is changing, Justice said.

“I love their show,” he said.

The governor was less complimentary of a recent news report about the Public Employee Insurance Agency, which covers state employees including teachers. Justice said there will not be premium increases “under my watch.”

(Mancini can be contacted at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com)

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