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West Virginia governor dismisses vaccine conspiracies

July 13, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice confronted outlandish conspiracy theories about the coronavirus vaccine Tuesday and set higher targets for vaccinating residents age 50 and older.

He said at a news conference that he recently had a meal with a group of people who believed in the baseless conspiracy theory that “there was something in the vaccine that would enable the federal government to track us.”

The governor dismissed it and urged more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“To come up with the idea that there’s a chip or something like that in the vaccine and it will go in our body and they’ll know where we’re at, it’s just a stretch beyond what I can believe,” he said.

Justice noted that the phones people carry around with them has more potential for tracking them.

West Virginia lags behind five bordering states in total vaccine doses administered per 100,000 people, according to federal data. The more transmissible delta variant is leading to a nationwide rise in cases again after months of decline.

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State data show that more than 58% of all residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Justice set a new goal of vaccinating 85% of residents 50 and older, a group that currently has 81.4% coverage. He also wants 90% of those age 65 and older to receive a shot, while 88.7% currently have one.

Hospitalizations in the state are up 54% since July 4 to 80 COVID-19 patients. Officials warned the delta variant is slowly beginning to spread in the state.