CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new Omicron booster has been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and doses have already started arriving in West Virginia.
Gov. Jim Justice said Friday during his COVID pandemic briefing the booster is designed specifically to help provide better protection from the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are now dominant in the country as well as in West Virginia.
The new booster has been approved for those over 12 years old, said retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, director of the Joint InterAgency Task Force, but it will initially target those 65 and over, long-term care residents, health care workers and those immunocompromised.
“Anyone over the age of 12 who has had the primary series of vaccines is eligible for the omicron booster,” he said, referring to the first two shots with Pfizer or Moderna.
Hoyer said doses are already arriving in the state with up to 100,000 total doses to arrive within the next week to 10 days.
“We should not have any shortages of the vaccine,” he said.
Justice said the omicron booster is coming at a crucial time.
“This could really help,” he said, adding that these variants are highly contagious. “We need to pay close attention … I promise you this thing is not gone.”
Justice has expressed concern about a possible post-Labor Day surge as kids are now back in school and cooler weather is approaching.
“There could be some level of whiplash in the fall and get that surge back with us, and end up losing more folks,” he said. “I urge everyone to get vaccinated and to get the new booster.”
On Friday’s County Alert map, seven counties were in gold, with one county in orange, Hardy County. Most others were in yellow with a scattering of green. County statistics were not updated Monday.
Although those target populations are the priority with the first batch of the new omicron booster doses arriving, he said anyone over 12 who has had those first two shots won’t have to wait long.
“The amount of supply will be here very, very quickly,” he said. “All of us ought to be getting ready to get that booster. They will be available for everyone very soon.”
Justice said the state may consider more incentives for people to get the omicron booster shot, but for now “everybody has to preach it and stay on course to get people the vaccine booster.”
Justice also on Friday rescinded an executive order that required all unvaccinated health care workers to receive COVID testing every two weeks.
No more testing will be required.