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Justice: Third vaccine boosts doses to 92K

CHARLESTON — West Virginia will receive more than 92,000 dosages with the approval of the third COVID-19 vaccine, the governor said Monday during his pandemic briefing.

“We’re ready for them,” Gov. Jim Justice said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued the emergency use authorization for the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the third vaccine the agency has authorized for emergency use. The first two were the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which started arriving in West Virginia in December.

The Johnson and Johnson version is a single-shot vaccine and doesn’t require the same super-cold storage equipment as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are two-shot vaccines.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine may offer a logistical advantage in reaching residents who are home-bound and have other mobility or anxiety issues, Dr. Clay Marsh, the coronavirus czar for the state, said. The plan is to put the Johnson and Johnson vaccine into the same rotation as the others, he said.

“All are incredibly safe and all are incredibly effective,” Marsh said. “All are equally effective in what we are really focused on, to save lives, to keep people out of the hospitals … and to block severe disease, severe complications from any kind of infection.”

The state’s vaccination program has been effective and successful because it has remained on target for the most vulnerable residents, according to James Hopyer, the former National Guard general who heads the state’s joint interagency task force on vaccinations.

Hoyer cited an 85 percent reduction of deaths since January and fewer people in the hospital.

“We know the strategy is working,” he said.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccines will be delivered to West Virginia this week, Justice said.

With the Pfizer and Moderna dosages, the state will receive 92,770 a week, which includes first and second doses, he said. The state will receive 34,100 from Moderna, 36,270 from Pfizer and 15,500 from Johnson and Johnson, Justice said.

Justice also said there may be additional relaxation of the pandemic restrictions announced later this week, however, it would be premature to disclose what those might be. The governor last week eased the restrictions on restaurants.

He also encouraged residents to register for a shot at vaccinate.wv.gov. Nearly 12 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, Justice said.

The governor also implored people to ignore claims the vaccines are unsafe.

“Quit believing this crazy stuff about the deer antlers or something like that,” he said.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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