CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is encouraging West Virginians 65 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid growing concern over COVID-19 variants.
According to the governor, roughly 90,000 West Virginians who are 65 and older, or 25% of the age group, have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. Justice says while vaccines are now available to every West Virginian 16 and older, the state is still prioritizing those over 65 as part of its Save Our Wisdom initiative.
As of Wednesday morning, the state has administered 96%, or 892,596, of the doses it has currently received.
“We’re just slightly over one-third of our people right now. We want to stop this thing. Stone-cold stop this thing,” Justice said. “We have got to set a sight on probably 70% of our folks.”
The governor says another reason he is urging older West Virginians to get the vaccine is growing concern over variants that spread more easily and are more deadly, especially as the state is reporting a slight uptick in cases, with the number of active cases rising almost every day for the past several weeks.
According to State Health Director Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state has been tracking variants within the state and has found two main variants. She says there are approximately 142 cases of the UK variant, also called the B.1.1.7 variant, throughout 19 counties, mostly border counties. Berkeley, Monongalia and Ohio counties have reported the most cases of the variant.
“There’s a little bit of an uptick. We know the variant that is causing the problem is twice as infectious and twice as deadly,” Justice said. “We’ve got to get vaccinated. We’re on the cusp of stopping this thing. Shutting it down.”
Amjad also says roughly 160 cases of the California variant have been reported.
Justice says spread among younger West Virginians is also a concern because while they may not get as sick, there is still the potential they could spread the virus to older people. Amjad said the majority of UK variant cases in the state have been in those between the ages of 19 to 40-years-old.
“It is something that we’re concerned about in our younger population and, I would say, our more social population that we’re seeing it in,” Amjad said. “Which is also why we’re encouraging younger ages to get vaccinated as well.”
For the past two weeks, the state has seen the largest numbers of cases over a seven-day period in the 10-19 and 20-29 age ranges.