CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia has joined several other states in allowing all adults to get coronavirus booster shots, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday.
Justice has been pushing the booster shots since they became available for anyone already fully vaccinated, although the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ website has posted federal guidelines for the extra shots. Justice clarified his position at a news conference Monday.
“I think that is absolutely the message that I’ve been trying to get out to people,” Justice said. “I absolutely believe that if you’re 18 years of age, you can get your booster shot.”
California, Colorado and New Mexico previously gave the go-ahead for all adults to get COVID-19 boosters.
Federal guidelines recommend boosters only for those over 65 and younger people with certain underlying health conditions or whose jobs are high risk for the virus.
West Virginia has the nation’s third-oldest population with nearly 20% of its 1.79 million residents over age 65. The state also eclipses most others in the percentage of people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
“West Virginia is known to have a lot of residents of high comorbidities,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s health officer. “So most of our population would qualify. I would agree that anyone who needs to get their booster shot needs to go out there and get it.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations in West Virginia have dropped considerably since peaking at 1,012 in late September.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of West Virginia’s 1.8 million residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 49% have had at least one dose. The CDC says the state’s rate of about 89,000 doses administered per 100,000 population is the nation’s worst.
Officials with West Virginia’s coronavirus task force claim that the state’s percentage is actually higher and that the CDC reports only part of the data.