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W.Va. Governor to shift vaccination focus as variants place kids at higher risk

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) West Virginia leaders have identified a new sector of the population that may now be at a higher risk of contracting, spreading, and getting seriously ill from the COVID-19 variants.

At his Friday press conference, Gov. Jim Justice said it is the younger population that also has the lowest vaccination rates.

"Of the 38,000 people that are in the (age) 16-18 category in the state, we have nine thousand vaccinated. Now come on, we have to do a lot better than that."

According to Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh, West Virginia on Friday was approaching nearly 500 cases of the highly contagious UK variant.

"The UK variant is substantially more infectious. It spreads more easily. It spreads more easily even among young people."

Marsh said the UK variant can also make children sicker. In the UK, the country has seen a more than 300 percent increase in hospitalized children.

"I want the parents out there to listen carefully. This is a disease that has really changed. The COVID variant is different," said Marsh at Friday's press conference.

W.Va. health officials are also monitoring a couple new cases of the Brazillian variant.

"It's stunning to realize that in Brazil, more than half of its intensive care patients are under 30 years old," said Marsh.

Gov. Justice said Friday that the vaccinations among the younger folks does not match the threat posed by the new variants -- signaling his intention to roll out a plan to vaccinate the state's youth in the near future.

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Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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