GOP West Virginia Governor Urges Young People to Get Covid Vaccine: You Will ‘Save a Lot of Lives'

State of West Virginia via AP
  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday called on young Americans to sign up for the Covid vaccine.
  • The Republican governor told CNBC that "by stepping up, they're going to save a lot of lives, too."
  • "This is our duty — absolutely a duty — to be vaccinated," Justice said.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday implored young Americans to receive the Covid vaccine, telling CNBC it's essential in helping the country overcome the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

Justice's comments on "Squawk on the Street" came one week after the Republican governor announced an initiative to give $100 savings bonds to West Virginia residents ages 16 to 35 who get the Covid vaccine.

"Now what we know is ... our young people have a real reluctancy to absolutely step up because they think they're invincible," Justice said. While they face a lower risk of death than older individuals, Justice said, young people have proven to be "tremendous transmitters of this, and by stepping up they're going to save a lot of lives, too."

Nearly 83% of U.S. residents ages 65 and up have now received at least one Covid vaccine dose, according to the CDC. About 80% of all Covid deaths in the U.S. have been in that age group.

Older Americans, given their vulnerability to the disease, were among those to receive priority access to the vaccine after U.S. regulators granted emergency use authorization late last year. Pfizer's and Moderna's two-dose vaccines earned limited clearance in December, while Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine was given emergency use authorization in late February.

About 35% of U.S. residents ages 18 to 29 — who are generally the Americans to most recently have become eligible — have now received at least one Covid vaccine dose, according to the CDC. Almost 45% of Americans ages 30 to 39 have had at least one Covid shot, CDC data shows.

Early on in the vaccination campaign, West Virginia was one of the top states for administering shots to residents, but its pace has slowed as broader groups of people qualified. On March 22, West Virginia opened up vaccine eligibility for those ages 16 and up.

"At some point in time, all states will hit a wall, and that's where we're at right now," Justice said.

"There's always going to be a small population of people that just say, 'Well, I'm not taking this, no matter what,'" Justice said. "But really and truly, at the end of the day right now, the population that's still out there saying, 'Well, I'd take it, but it's a little inconvenient,' or the population of young people from 15 to 35 years of age that think they're invincible, we've got to penetrate that."

That's where West Virginia's incentive plan for the $100 savings bonds comes into play, Justice said, describing the initiative as a kind of "dose of patriotism."

"We're trying to do something that is just novel. It's a new marketing approach and everything. It's working, but I don't think it will be a silver bullet," Justice said.

Justice said West Virginia's goal is to get 70% of its total population vaccinated. Currently, 44% of the state's residents have received at least one dose and 36.2% are fully vaccinated, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources.

"I don't know why in the world all of our people can't understand just one thing and one thing as simple as just this: Vaccinations are saving an incredible amount of lives," Justice said. "Absolutely all of us stepping up, we need to do that. ... This is our duty — absolutely a duty — to be vaccinated."

By taking that step, Justice said, the nation will be able to leave behind many pandemic precautions.

"If we want to go back to normalcy and be able to open up and get rid of these masks and get rid of all this stuff, which I want to do more than anything in the world, but if we want to get there, our ticket is one thing," Justice said. "That bridge to a vaccine? We've got a vaccine right now, and we need to be on it."

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