State officials report COVID vaccine initial doses now given to more than 30 percent of qualifying state residents

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Between 33 percent and 35 percent of all West Virginians eligible for coronavirus vaccines had received first doses as of Wednesday morning, according to Governor Jim Justice.

During a Wednesday briefing, Gov. Justice said those fully vaccinated accounted for roughly a quarter of qualifying state residents, people age 16 and older.

At the same time, though, virus variants were spreading.

Dr. Ayne Amjad

Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state health officer, said the most prevalent virus variants were the United Kingdom variant, with 142 confirmed cases statewide, and the California variant, with more than 160 confirmed cases statewide.

“We have the U.K. variant in about 19 counties. Most of those are in our border counties. The top three counties are Berkeley County, Mon County and Ohio County,” said Dr. Amjad.

“It is in our younger age group population, anywhere from 19 through 40-year-olds are the main age groups where we’re seeing it.”

Dr. Clay Marsh
Dr. Clay Marsh

Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean of health sciences at West Virginia University, said that should serve as a warning.

“We’re not out the woods yet,” he said before citing states like Michigan, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey that have seen rapid COVID case increases in recent weeks.

In Michigan, health officials have said 70 percent of all new cases involve the U.K. variant.

While more than 30 percent of West Virginia’s population had one shot, “We know from the United Kingdom, 50 percent is the level in which we start to see a lot more protection for the entire population,” Dr. Marsh said.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department announced Wednesday the county has confirmed its first case of UK variant.

“Viruses naturally mutate over time, so it’s not surprising to find this variant in Kanawha County,” Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said in a news release. “However, this stresses the importance of maintaining our aggressive stance on vaccinating every person eligible to receive the vaccine.”

Among West Virginians age 65 and older, an early priority group, state officials said 70 percent of residents were fully vaccinated.

Governor Justice’s goal for that group was 85 percent.

More information about vaccines was available through the state COVID-19 Vaccine Info Line at 1-833-734-0965.

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