(The Center Square) – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wants federal approval to administer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for at-risk members of the community who received their first booster shot at least three months ago.
The governor made the formal request in a letter to President Joe Biden. He asked Biden to direct the FDA and CDC to authorize the state to provide another booster shot to essential workers and people aged 50 and older. West Virginia is the first state to make this request, but Israel has begun administering a fourth dose to its citizens.
“Just like West Virginia has led the nation time and again throughout this pandemic, Israel has led the world,” Justice claimed in a statement. “And, right now, Israel is offering a fourth dose to an even bigger population – people who are four months out from their Pfizer or Moderna booster shots. What we want to do is walk hand-in-hand with Israel.”
Justice made the request on the recommendation of West Virginia’s COVID-19 response leadership team, which includes State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh and JIATF Director Jim Hoyer.
“The Biden Administration just the other day said that the states really ought to be the ones to handle this, so that’s what we want to do,” Justice said. “First of all, it’ll save a bunch more lives. But secondly, if we do nothing, we’re going to end up with a run on our hospitals like you can’t imagine. The Omicron variant is super-potent. If we don’t move right now, we’re going to have people sitting outside the emergency room in their cars that can’t even get into the hospital.”
West Virginia has trailed the nation in COVID-19 vaccination rates: less than 60% of the adult population is fully vaccinated and less than 72% have received their first dose. Nearly 39% of the adult population has received a booster shot. Vaccination rates are higher among the elderly, but lower among children and young adults. Death and serious illness are rare for younger people, but the risk increases if a person has a compromised immune system or other health condition and it increases as a person gets older.
After the CDC and FDA approved booster shots for those 12 years old or older, the governor also announced that West Virginia has authorized it. The federal government is encouraging everyone 12 years old or older to receive a booster. The CDC and FDA also shortened the waiting time in between a person’s second shot and receiving the booster. A person must only wait five months before receiving the Pfizer booster, rather than six.