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W.Va. still pushing for fourth dose

CHARLESTON – West Virginia still wants the authorization for a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine despite the possibility that the latest omicron variant surge of the pandemic may have peaked.

The state earlier this year asked the federal government for the authorization of another booster for residents 50 and older, those who are immunocompromised and essential workers who are four months out from their booster shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Data from Israel supported the booster to increase immunity levels, health officers said.

“I would say we certainly are still very interested in being the equivalent of what Israel has done for the world to do for the United States and to be able to test that,” Dr. Clay Marsh, coronavirus leader and adviser in West Virginia, said Friday morning during the governor’s COVID-19 briefing.

“We know that in our own hospitals despite some of our numbers coming down, we are still well over 850 people in West Virginia hospital beds,” Marsh said.

About 30 percent have been vaccinated with about 25 percent of those in an intensive care unit vaccinated and 20 percent of those on a ventilator have been vaccinated, he said.

“We do know from lots of data from lots of places, from Israel when they saw three-fold protection from hospitalizations for Israelis over 60 years old who got that additional boost dose,” he said

The fourth boost dose was three months after the third, Marsh said.

Active cases in West Virginia were around 8,000 Friday while hospitalizations were at 884. The peak of active cases under the omicron variant surge was 21,717 in January.

It remains too soon to call the situation an endemic, Dr. Ayne Amjad, state health officer, said. West Virginia usually lags several weeks behind other states, she said.

The hospital numbers are still high, Amjad said.

“I tend to not use that word yet, but I think a lot of people would like to get to that point,” Amjad said.

Gov. Jim Justice held a pandemic briefing Friday morning. Briefings will be held Tuesday and Thursday next week.

It could be that masks are no longer helping, the governor said. The solution is the vaccination to avoid masks, more deaths or further anxieties, according to Justice.

Vaccination doesn’t guarantee not getting infected, but the shots will about guarantee not going to the hospital or getting on the list of the dead, according to the governor.

“Why not get vaccinated and boosted and enjoy your life,” he said.

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

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