CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and state health officials are continuing to urge West Virginians to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As of Friday, April 23, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports a total of have been fully vaccinated against the virus and people in the state have received at least their first dose. The governor says more than 77% of the state’s 65 and older population have now been vaccinated.
With the state starting to see vaccine hesitancy and less demand for the vaccine, state officials say they are thinking of asking the federal government to send vials that contain smaller numbers of doses. They say this would not mean fewer vaccines being sent to the state but would allow the state to prevent wasting doses after opening vials if there are not enough people to use up all of the doses before they can no longer be used.
The governor says the state’s biggest challenge has been vaccinating West Virginians within the ages of 16 to 35. According to health officials of the 38,000 West Virginians in this age range, only 9,000 have been vaccinated. Justice says achieving the end stretch of vaccinations is vital to getting back to some level of normalcy within the state.
According to Justice, educating people on the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines will help reach this goal. He also says the state will work with business or churches who want to help get their employees or congregations the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Justice says vaccinations have been successful at preventing COVID-19 or minimizing the effects in cases where the virus does break through the vaccine, known as breakthrough cases, especially as variants of the virus continue to spread.
“These variants are the real deal, but these vaccines are incredibly successful. Absolutely, if we don’t get there, this thing will whiplash on us and when it does it will get really bad again,” Justice said. “We can’t let a bunch more West Virginians die when we can prevent it.”
For transparency in the vaccine data, Justice and COVID-19 Czar, Dr. Clay Marsh shared data from the state and federal level of the vaccine’s effectiveness, which did include some breakthrough cases, however those numbers were small when compared to the number of people vaccinated.
Marsh said of the 77 million people in the U.S. fully vaccinated at the time the data was released, roughly 5,800 breakthrough cases were reported across the country and 74 people among those cases died. Of the 543,654 West Virginians who have been vaccinated, the virus broke through the vaccine in fewer than 150 cases, and three people among those cases died. Justice and Marsh did not say if those who died had one of the variants of the virus.
While the data did show some instances of the virus getting through the vaccine, Justice stressed the risk of not taking the vaccine was far greater than the number of breakthrough cases.
For those wanting to learn more or who have questions about the vaccine, the state has a vaccine info line West Virginians can call at
Justice said following the guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus is still important. The state is reporting 12 current outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities and five outbreaks in churches across Berkeley, Grant, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. The governor says Greenbrier East High School’s girls’ basketball team, which the governor coaches, canceled their tournament game against George Washington High School Wednesday night after seven students tested positive for the virus.