CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh says he remains concerned about the shifting of the COVID-19 virus and its transmission with younger people across the country, including West Virginia.
Appearing on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline,’ Marsh said the majority of virus spread in West Virginia is occurring in the age groups of 19-19 and 20-29, different from the beginning of the pandemic.
“I’m really worried about the consequences of that because we have a population that is not vaccinated nearly to the level of our elders. Right now, only 16 and over can get vaccinated,” Marsh said.
Marsh said there is a belief that the FDA will give emergency use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine to those 12-15 years old early next week. He also believes the age barrier for vaccine eligibility will continue to come down, but there needs to be trusted voices to young individuals who speak up for advocacy of a shot.
Marsh said in the end, vaccinations save lives.
“We have seen a substantial and sustained reduction in the number of deaths every week throughout 2021. That makes me very happy because I know we have saved a lot of lives. A lot of people have saved their own lives by choosing to get vaccinated,” he said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 4, 2021
The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported 57,434 people between 16 and 24 years old in West Virginia have received at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday. 65,241 first doses have been administered to those 25-34.
He said the alarming case numbers coming into the state have been with the variants, particularly the U.K. one. According to Marsh, the state confirmed 654 U.K. variant cases over the weekend and it climbed to 930 on Monday. He said it’s mostly among young people.
“We used to say that young people were half as likely to get COVID and very unlikely to spread it. That’s really changed with this new variant. Young people are just as likely to get COVID upon exposure as young people,” Marsh said.
Marsh said he believes in incentives such as Gov. Jim Justice’s plan for savings bonds, to get young people to get a vaccine. He also said health leaders across the state need to get where the people are. Marsh promised community vaccination efforts this spring and summer at fairs, festivals, games, restaurants, and higher congregated areas.
“There are people out there that want the vaccine but just don’t have the time. It’s not convenient for them,” he said.