Republican Gov. Jim Justice issued a stark warning to West Virginians on Tuesday as he urged more of his state’s residents to get a Covid-19 vaccine: “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re part of the problem.”
“If you’re out there in West Virginia, and you’re not vaccinated today, what’s the downside?” Justice said during a televised coronavirus briefing. “If all of us were vaccinated, do you not believe that less people would die? If you’re not vaccinated, you’re part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”
After reaching the threshold of 1 million residents getting at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Justice made a plea to young people to get inoculated. Compared with 77.4% of residents over age 65 who are fully vaccinated, only 53.7% of West Virginians over age 12 have received both shots, according to state Covid-19 data.
“The young people out there are the ones that are dragging their feet,” the governor said. “The sun is shining, they’re out of school, all is good in the world and everything, yet they don’t really realize that they could be the transmitters that could be passing this on to someone that’s going to die.”
Justice, whose state has touted a vaccination incentive lottery with prizes such as $1 million cash, 25 weekend getaways and two full four-year scholarships, had said Sunday that those choosing not to get the shot are entering a “death lottery.”
“When it really boils right down to it, they’re in a lottery to themselves,” Justice told ABC News. “We have a lottery, you know, that basically says, ‘If you’re vaccinated, we’re going to give you stuff.’ “
He added: “Well, you’ve got another lottery going on. And it’s the death lottery.”
Only 46.7% of the state’s residents had been fully vaccinated against the virus as of Tuesday afternoon, according to state data. And as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads across the US, data shows that rates of new Covid-19 cases are almost three times higher in states with low vaccination rates.
“The best information we have tells us just this: that we’re in our infancy in West Virginia with a Delta variant,” Justice said Tuesday. “The odds are astronomical that that variant is going to go substantially greater than it is today.”
President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday afternoon that his administration would engage in targeted outreach to get more Americans vaccinated, days after the nation fell short of his July Fourth vaccination goals.
“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family and the people you care about the most is get vaccinated,” said Biden, whose administration missed its goal to have 70% of Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by the Fourth of July. “The best things a community can do to protect themselves is to increase vaccination rates. You can do this.”
The President said the United States is projected to reach the mark of 160 million fully vaccinated Americans by the end of this week.