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While West Virginia COVID-19 hospitalizations have been trending down from a peak of 1,012 on Sept. 24, Dr. Clay Marsh on Friday raised concerns that hospitalizations of fully vaccinated people are ticking up, accounting for 24% of the current 686 patients.

“That’s the group we think it’s so important to give that booster shot to,” Marsh, state COVID-19 czar and vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University, said during Friday’s state COVID-19 briefing. “We know, the longer you are from that second shot ... the more you will benefit from the booster shot.”

Marsh noted that, as of Friday, the federal Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have authorized booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, along with the Pfizer vaccine. They also have approved mixing doses of the vaccines.

Like other vaccinations, COVID-19 vaccinations lose effectiveness over time, and studies have shown that booster shots are highly effective at raising immunity, Marsh said.

He said those vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna should get a booster shot six months after their second shot, and those vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster shot two months after the initial shot.

Marsh said encouraging people to get booster shots will be a cornerstone of state COVID-19 efforts going forward. Marsh also said he’s optimistic that approval will come down for Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5- to 11-years-old next week.

“It looks very, very good that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, at a much lower concentration of the vaccine, at about one third of a dose, is highly effective at reducing infections, and symptomatic infections, in young people,” he said.

As of Friday, West Virginia reported 8,746 active cases of COVID-19, less than one third of the number of cases reported during the peak of the September surge, 29,744 on Sept. 17.

The total number of deaths reached 4,263 on Friday, with 3,143 of those deaths occurring after COVID-19 vaccines became available, with 93% of those deaths — 2,912 — among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.

Of the 686 people hospitalized as of Friday, 205 were in intensive care units, with 176 listed as unvaccinated. There were 116 critically ill patients on ventilators Friday, with 100 of those patients unvaccinated.

According to the CDC, West Virginia continues to have the lowest vaccination rate in the country, with 40.9% of the total state population fully vaccinated.

Phil Kabler covers politics. He can be reached at 304-348-1220 or philk@hd Follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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