Gov. Justice encourages younger population to get COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 2:09 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday that 50.9 percent of the eligible population in the state, those 16 years of age and older, have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Justice says the ultimate goal is to reach 70 percent.

“When we get to 70, these masks and all this stuff will be a memory,” Gov. Justice said during his press briefing on the state’s COVID-19 response Wednesday.

Gov. Justice encouraged all West Virginians between the ages of 16 and 35 to go get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Now what we’ve got to do is get our kids on board,” said Gov. Justice. “We’ve got to get that 16 to 35 years of age on board and then we really start moving this 50.9 percent and heading toward 70.”

Gov. Justice says 77 percent of West Virginians 65 years of age and older have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. He increased that goal to 85 percent Wednesday.

Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus czar, discussed data surrounding the different variants of COVID-19 and their impact on younger generations.

Dr. Marsh said the variants are changing the natural history of the virus and the pandemic. He said studies that showed younger children were half as likely to catch the virus or spread COVID-19 were done before variant cases started to appear.

“We’re now starting to see younger people not only get infected and perhaps be able to transmit or infect others more easily, but also potentially have the opportunity to be sicker,” said Dr. Marsh. “As I said in the Brazilian P1 variant, over half of the ICU patients now are under the age of 30.”

Dr. Marsh says the variants, including the United Kingdom variant - which has become the most common form of COVID-19 in the US, are more easily transmissible. Dr. Marsh says that variant is also growing in West Virginia.

Despite those facts, Dr. Marsh stressed that health professionals believe the classroom setting is still safe, as long as masks and social distancing guidelines are followed. He said the only increase in community spread they have seen are in ‘extra curriculars and in social situations.’

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