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Marsh anticipates approval of new COVID-19 booster doses

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia officials are waiting for guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on coronavirus booster doses amid reports regarding the consideration of updated shots.

The agency is expected to approve new versions of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna booster shots before Labor Day. The doses are designed to better address the omicron subvariant as well as the original strain. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.5 subvairant is the most dominant strain in the United States.

The FDA will meet Thursday and Friday to consider the matter.

Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus czar, said he anticipates the FDA and the CDC will approve the new boosters. He added the boosters will be first recommended for people in assisted-living facilities and individuals 65 and older.

“Fairly soon after Labor Day, we should start to see the availability of the new omicron-specific booster shots that will be available,” he said during last Thursday’s coronavirus briefing.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 55.2% of West Virginians are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus. More than 55% of eligible West Virginians have received booster doses.

Marsh urged eligible West Virginians to get vaccinated and boostered, noting recent data showing how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the country’s life expectancy.

“What we’ve seen is that overall, America lost about 1.5 years of life during 2020, mostly due to COVID-19, and we know that 2021 had more American deaths than 2020 did, so we anticipate we will see further life expectancy reductions,” he said.

West Virginia had the second lowest life expectancy in the country; the rate fell from 74.4 years to 72.8 years from 2019 to 2020.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported 3,188 active coronavirus cases in its Friday report. Officials have confirmed 7,268 deaths related to the pandemic.

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