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Officials: Unvaccinated patients increasing in W.Va. hospitals

File photo Jim Justice expressed enthusiasm Friday about COVID-19 vaccination booster shots being given in West Virginia.

CHARLESTON — The number of hospitalized patients who were vaccinated for the COVID-19 coronavirus has been creeping upward while West Virginia began giving widespread third doses Friday to bolster protection against the virus, state officials said.

The rise in vaccinated patients in hospitals indicates the urgent need for the third vaccine booster shots, Dr. Clay Marsh, coronavirus czar, said during the governor’s Friday pandemic briefing.

About 20 percent of those hospitalized from complications of the virus are vaccinated patients, up from about 13 percent several weeks ago, Vaccinated residents becoming infected with the virus are called breakthrough cases.

The hospital statistics were predictable and of concern, Marsh said.

“With vaccine breakthrough cases now becoming more severe, just like we saw in the Israeli data, we know that 10 to 13 days after the booster does, we should start to see a great protection,” he said.

The state has begun administration of the third shots with Friday’s approval by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, Gov. Jim Justice said.

Walensky overruled the recommendation of an advisory panel on Friday and approved the Pfizer two-dose vaccine to a larger segment of people. The decision does not pertain to the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which also is expected.

The state has lobbied the Biden Administration and federal officials for several months to begin third doses because of how early the state started vaccinations, in December 2020. Hospitals are being challenged because of the increased number of COVID patients, Justice said.

“Thank goodness, thank goodness somebody has finally come to their senses and said ‘This has to be done,'” Justice said.

The guidelines for the boosters would enable anyone over 18 to get the third shot, Justice said.

The CDC recommendations for the third shot include: those 65 and older and residents in long term care facilities should get the Pfizer shot if at least six months after their second dose; people 50-64 with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster if six months out from their second shot; people 18-49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster if six months out, depending on individual benefits and risks; people 18-64 at increased risk of exposure because of occupation or institutional setting may receive a booster if six months out from their second shots.

“Booster shots are being given as we are on this press conference,” James Hoyer, head of the interagency task force on vaccines, said.

Nursing homes are giving shots and they are available at pharmacies, community clinics, hospitals and some primary care providers, he said.

If there’s an issue finding a location contact, the Department of Health and Human Resources hotline is 833 734-0965, department Secretary Bill Crouch said.

“We have plenty of doses based on the management of our inventory,” Hoyer said. “And we are prepared to manage the doses of Moderna once that is made available to us to provide those boosters.”

To get a replacement vaccine card, contact the providers where the shots were given or go to the department website, dhhr.wv.gov, where a form will be available for a replacement, Crouch said.

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