Demand slowing for vaccinations
CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice and state health officials pleaded with the public Friday to get a COVID-19 vaccine as supply of the vaccines becomes greater than the demand.
“There has never been a vaccine that is this productive and this successful. Never,” Justice said. “You would almost be more prone to have a meteorite hit you in your yard than you would to draw a terrible sickness from taking the vaccines…the only way I can stop this is if you take the vaccines.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, nearly 27 percent of state residents are fully vaccinated, with 38 percent with at least one dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
Of that number, more than 60 percent of fully vaccinated residents are age 65 and older, with more than 70 percent of that age group partially vaccinated. Residents between the ages of 65 and 74 make up the largest number of fully vaccinated people at 128,498.
Justice and state health officials remain concerned about the number of young people still unvaccinated. Only 17,319 residents between the ages of 16 and 24 are fully vaccinated, with 50,866 residents in that age group partially vaccinated.
At this point, officials said vaccine supply is no longer a problem even with the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The problem is demand. All West Virginia residents age 16 and older are eligible for the vaccine.
Justice, who coaches girls’ basketball at Greenbrier East High School, said his own players were offered the vaccine and refused. One of those players tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
“It kind of dumbfounded me,” Justice said. “We’ve got to get our young people vaccinated.”
Some of the hesitancy by people to get vaccinated stems from concerns that the vaccines don’t protect against reinfection. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, out of the 77 million vaccinations in the U.S., there have only been 5,800 reinfections with state health officials confirming 129 reinfections in West Virginia.
Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar, said of the 1.8 percent of the U.S. population that have died, only .00001 percent have died from reinfections.
“As we look at the impact of these vaccines in real-world situations, these vaccines are incredibly effective and incredibly safe,” Marsh said. “As our use of the vaccines have gone down a little bit…it is really a signal to all of us that it’s really important for all of us to step up and decided to choose to be vaccinated to protect yourself and to protect each other and protect our state.”
“The odds are so phenomenal that you’re not going to get it back, it’s just off the chart almost,” Justice said. “Of those who have been vaccinated, there is such a small amount that it’s almost not even measurable who have gotten this disease back.”
State officials are also concerned about young unvaccinated people spreading COVID-19 variants in the state. Marsh said the state has identified one case of the Brazilian P1 variant in Berkeley County. There are 497 cases of the Brazilian variant in the U.S. in 31 states. DHHR has identified two cases of the South African variant as well.
The state also has 265 cases of the United Kingdom variant and 174 cases of the California variant. While some of the COVID-19 variants are more resistant to the vaccines, Marsh said all vaccines will provide some level protection.
“That is not to scare West Virginians, but it is a call to arms,” Marsh said. “We know that our strongest age group for spread is the 10- to 19-year-old young West Virginians, so we want to call on families, on parents, and on young people to get vaccinated.”