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West Virginia Seeking Federal Permission to Offer 4th Dose of COVID Vaccine to State’s At-Risk Population

CHARLESTON, WV – With cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continuing to increase exponentially, Gov. Justice has sent a letter to President Biden asking him to direct the FDA and CDC to authorize West Virginia to immediately begin offering an additional dose of the vaccine (4th dose overall) to certain at-risk members of the state’s population who are at least three months out from their first booster dose.

West Virginia is the first state in the nation to make this request.

“Just like West Virginia has led the nation time and again throughout this pandemic, Israel has led the world. And, right now, Israel is offering a fourth dose to an even bigger population – people who are four months out from their Pfizer or Moderna booster shots,” Gov. Justice said. “What we want to do is walk hand-in-hand with Israel.”
Gov. Justice said that in his letter, he will propose that all West Virginians who are age 50 and older and essential workers be the first ones eligible for the extra dose.

“The Biden Administration just the other day said that the states really ought to be the ones to handle this, so that’s what we want to do,” Gov. Justice continued. “First of all, it’ll save a bunch more lives. But secondly, if we do nothing, we’re going to end up with a run on our hospitals like you can’t imagine. The Omicron variant is super-potent. If we don’t move right now, we’re going to have people sitting outside the emergency room in their cars that can’t even get into the hospital.”

The decision is based upon the recommendations of West Virginia’s COVID-19 response leadership team, including State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh and JIATF Director Jim Hoyer, both of whom were in attendance for the briefing.

BOOSTER SHOTS NOW AUTHORIZED FOR ALL WEST VIRGINIANS AGES 12 AND OLDER
Gov. Justice also announced that the CDC and FDA have now authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for use in children ages 12 to 15, meaning that booster shots are now authorized for all West Virginians ages 12 and older.
The CDC and FDA have also shortened the waiting period to get the Pfizer booster from six months after receiving the initial series of shots to five months.

The FDA has approved and is encouraging booster doses for all Americans over 12 years old.
COVID-19 booster shots are available, for free, to all eligible West Virginians. Read more about booster eligibility at CDC.gov.

West Virginians can go to any location offering COVID-19 vaccines with their vaccination card to receive their booster. If your card has been lost, you can request a new one from the DHHR.

Initial series vaccinations are available, for free, for everyone ages 5 and older.

West Virginians interested in being vaccinated or having their children vaccinated are encouraged to visit Vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965.

CASE NUMBERS & HOSPITALIZATIONS UPDATE
On Thursday, Gov. Justice reported that there are now 11,793 active cases of COVID-19 statewide. Active cases now reflect an active status length of five days instead of 10 to coincident with revised CDC guidelines.
The cumulative percent positivity rate stands at 6.74%.

A total of 1,111,671 West Virginians – 65.4% of the eligible population ages 5 and older – have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Booster doses have now been administered to 331,771 people – or 35.9% of West Virginians who have received both doses of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine series or their dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Gov. Justice also reported that, per the West Virginia Department of Education, there are currently 15 school outbreaks in 11 counties with 131 confirmed cases.

GOVERNOR WARNS WEST VIRGINIANS TO BE CAUTIOUS WITH WINTER STORM APPROACHING
Also on Thursday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks about COVID-19 to urge all West Virginians to remain vigilant and to exercise caution with a potentially severe winter storm forecast to hit the state.

“We’ve got a big storm coming. We’re gonna have probably three to eight inches of snow in some places,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ll deal with it. Our Emergency Operations Center is prepared and they’re ready to go. Hopefully, it will just be a blip, but I ask you to be extremely careful.”

In addition to directing the State Emergency Operations Center to remain on high alert, the Governor also announced that the West Virginia Division of Highways has salt stockpiled, snowplows staffed, and crews ready to work around the clock to respond to any snow-related weather event that might arise.

The State of Preparedness issued by Gov. Justice last week for all 55 counties across West Virginia remains in effect.

GOV. JUSTICE ENCOURAGES WEST VIRGINIANS TO TUNE IN FOR HIS STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS NEXT WEDNESDAY, JAN. 12
Finally, Gov. Justice took time to announce that he will deliver his sixth State of the State Address Wednesday next week – Jan. 12, 2022 – at 7 p.m.

“I really encourage you to watch because there’s going to be some major announcements that we’re going to make this year,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s all just more and more goodness coming to West Virginia. So please tune in.” 

The address will be broadcast live on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Channel and live-streamed on the Governor’s social media channels on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Audio from the address will also be broadcast live on West Virginia Public Radio.