West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has announced the nation’s first statewide COVID-19 antibody testing program for residents who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months, as experts consider the possibility of booster shots for certain groups.
Dubbed “Booster Battlefield Assessment,” the program will allow West Virginia residents who were vaccinated against COVID-19 more than six months ago and are over the age of 60 to have their antibody levels tested and measured, the Republican governor said in a statement.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Justice cited a rise in cases of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which now accounts for more than 80 percent of reported cases in the United States, calling it “the enemy.”
“In West Virginia, we now have 100 Delta variant cases. This variant is different. It is much, much more contagious,” Justice said. “In my stomach, I believe and I feel that the enemy is coming. And that enemy is this Delta variant. We’ve got to do something, and we’ve got to do something really fast.”
Justice said that allowing the state’s long-term care facility residents and others aged 60 and above to volunteer to have their blood drawn and have their antibody levels measured will allow the state to “gain data on antibodies and how protected you really are.”
West Virginia coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh citied studies that have shown 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,” Marsh said.
Marsh explained that the state aims to gather with the program “very valuable information” that it can share with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
West Virginia hopes 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,” Marsh added.
If a participant’s antibody levels are found to be low, those individuals may then qualify to receive another booster of the COVID-19 vaccine, should such booster shots become available, the governor’s office said.
“West Virginia has always been on the forefront with our response to COVID,” Justice added. “I am very hopeful that, with this program, West Virginia will lead the way for the nation yet again.”
Biden administration officials last month signaled that certain groups will need COVID-19 booster shots.
CDC’s chief medical officer Dr. Amanda Cohn told an advisory panel that government officials are “actively looking into ways” to let people who don’t have strong immune systems, or the immunocompromised, gain access to boosters.