CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday state officials will ask the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for permission to offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to those deemed eligible in the state.
He explained West Virginia is looking to Israel as a leader in combating COVID, and not the White House.
“We’ve lost control of this (at the federal level),” Justice said. “So many of the recommendations coming down from D.C. absolutely have been a dog’s mess – that’s all there is to it. So maybe the states ought to handle it.
“What we’re going to do right now is move forward hand-in-hand with what Israel is doing. Israel is offering a fourth dose – and they’re doing that right now.”
Under West Virginia’s plan that follows that of Israel, the state would provide the shots to those who had their last booster more than four months ago, are over the age of 50, have compromising health conditions or who are considered essential workers. Among these would be first responders, grocery store workers and those with compromised health, according to Justice.
Healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic would be a primary focus, as hospital staffing could become a greater concern than the availability of hospital beds, state officials said Thursday.
“It (a fourth shot) will save a bunch, bunch, bunch more lives,” Justice said. “Second to that, we’re going to end up with a run on our hospitals that you can’t imagine.
“This omicron virus is potent from the standpoint it is a superspreader, and absolutely we are going to have people sitting outside hospitals in their cars that have had a stroke or heart attack and can’t get into the hospital. We’re going to have more and more of that right at our doorstep,” he said.
The letter to the CDC was expected to go out Thursday.
Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s COVID “czar,” said state officials want West Virginians with “as much active and current immunity as we can.”
“We are worried about the capacity in our hospitals – and not just the capacity of hospitals to take care of people who may be infected with COVID-19, but also their ability to take care of people who have other medical needs like heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, cancer and other things,” he said.
“As we take up more and more of the bed capacity at state hospitals, and as we see more and more of our staff get sick and not be able to work and take care of people – or who get fatigued and burned out and decide they don’t want to do this any more – it reduces our capacity, our reserve and ability to respond.”
He predicts that as West Virginia’s COVID hospitalization numbers continue to rise, the state is “not anywhere near its peak.”
Justice reported 31 additional COVID deaths occurring in West Virginia since Tuesday, bringing the state’s total of those lost to COVID to 5,392.
As of Thursday morning, there were 758 hospitalized in West Virginia with COVID, with 201 in intensive care units and 115 on respirators, he said.