During Thursday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that the State of West Virginia is launching the first statewide program in the country to test and measure antibody levels among vaccinated individuals.
This new “Booster Battlefield Assessment” program is among several additional proactive efforts that are now underway as the number of Delta variant cases across the state continues to climb sharply.
“In West Virginia, we now have 100 Delta variant cases,” Gov. Justice said. “This variant is different. It is much, much more contagious.”
The current statewide case count of 100 is a 132.6% increase in Delta variant cases since the Governor’s previous COVID-19 briefing two days ago.
“In my stomach, I believe and I feel that the enemy is coming. And that enemy is this Delta variant,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve got to do something, and we’ve got to do something really fast.”
The Governor went on to announce several action steps that will be taken immediately.
The Booster Battlefield Assessment program will be an opportunity for West Virginia’s long-term care facility residents and other West Virginians ages 60 and above who were vaccinated more than six months ago to volunteer to have their blood drawn and have their antibody levels measured.
“That will allow us to gain data on antibodies and how protected you really are,” Gov. Justice said.
State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, who attended Thursday’s briefing in-person, noted that early studies have indicated that there may be a “significant reduction” in the amount of antibodies present in individuals six months after being vaccinated.
“We are worried that people who are older, who are more vulnerable—including our nursing home population, our long-term care facilities, and all people who are over 60 years old—who were vaccinated back in December and January when we first saw the vaccines, that they may be seeing their immune protection start to go down,” Dr. Marsh said. “With this Booster Battlefield Assessment program, we think that we can gather very valuable information that we can share with the CDC and the FDA—hopefully working hand in glove with the vaccine manufacturers—to be able to demonstrate real-world data in the U.S. that we may be able to use to benefit our population; to protect them from getting sick and dying.”
If a participant’s antibody levels are found to be low, those individuals may then qualify to receive another booster of the vaccine, should such booster shots become available.
The Booster Battlefield Assessment program is the first statewide antibody testing program in the country.
“West Virginia has always been on the forefront with our response to COVID,” Gov. Justice said. “I am very hopeful that, with this program, West Virginia will lead the way for the nation yet again.”
The Governor also announced that he has directed West Virginia’s Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) on COVID-19 to evaluate PPE supply levels across the state.
The JIATF has also been directed to evaluate hospital staffing and bed availability, long-term care facility staffing and preventative measures, and monoclonal antibody treatment levels statewide.
“We’re moving proactive and will be doing a foundational emergency planning program,” Gov. Justice said. “We need to be ready because this Delta variant is here. We have 100 cases now and we know more will be coming in the days ahead. I’ve been advised by top medical professionals that, over the next few weeks, this thing is going to get significantly worse.”
“The Governor’s primary objectives are to reduce the loss of life among West Virginians and to maintain the integrity of our hospital system,” JIATF Director Jim Hoyer said during his remarks Thursday. “What the Governor has directed us to do is to give him, as the commander of our response, a better focus on what is out in front of us and what we need to do to maintain the level of effort to achieve those two objectives that we need to get to.”