New bivalent boosters add protection against the Omicron variant before the expected surge

Maxime Elramsisy | California Black Media

California began administering updated COVID-19 booster shots after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the use of new booster versions of the vaccine for people ages 12 and older.

The Western State Science Safety Review Task Force independently reviewed the boosters and recommended that they be given to people who have already received primary vaccines, regardless of booster status.

The updated boosters will be “bivalent,” providing protection against the original coronavirus strains, as well as enhanced immunity against the currently dominant BA.4 and BA.5 strains, also known as Omicron variants.

The Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent booster is available for ages 12 and older, while the Moderna bivalent booster is approved for ages 18 and older. Bivalent boosters are not permitted for children under 12 years old.

“We’re getting closer to a flu vaccine analogy,” Dr. Gil Chavez, chief medical officer, Office of the State Epidemiologist, California Department of Public Health, said at a recent table. Ethnic media-sponsored round on COVID-19 with other doctors. physicians and public health officials: Dr. Maggie Park, County Public Health Officer, San Joaquin County Public Health Services; Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, Watts Healthcare; and Dr. Eva Smith, Medical Director, K’ima:w Medical Center.

According to Chavez, “While you know that every year we have to get a flu shot to make sure we get the updated shot…with COVID-19, we’re going in the same direction where we think we’re going.” it will be important to have at least one annual booster.

“The goal, and our hope, is to continue on a low case count path and prevent a surge in COVID cases this winter. That’s why public health officials are urging individuals to get the updated recall,” Chavez said.

Officials reiterate that while boosters prevent illness in some people, they are critically important in preventing people who contract COVID from becoming seriously ill, to the point where they can be hospitalized and potentially die.

Vaccines are also an important tool in preventing “long COVID”, where symptoms such as headaches, brain fog and fatigue can linger for more than six months.

In July, a spike in infections driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant nearly prompted Los Angeles County, for example, to reinstate a universal indoor mask mandate.

“BA.5 has been the predominant variant in circulation since July and still and now accounts for about 87% of all newly diagnosed COVID cases, with BA.4 accounting for roughly the remainder,” Park said. “I want to say that the rollout of this new booster is actually quite timely, as many models are predicting that we will face another surge of COVID-19 this fall or winter and we need to be prepared.”

While scientists think many people infected in the last COVID surge will have natural immunity for a while, that kind of protection starts to wane after about 90 days. So even people who have had COVID in the past should consider getting a booster about 3 months after being infected.

In California, vaccine hesitancy persists. 72% of all people received primary vaccinations, but only 58.8% of those eligible for boosters received a booster.

This is worrying because, according to Dr. Brooks, “unvaccinated people [account for] 2.4 times more cases, 4.6 times more hospitalizations, 8 times more deaths.

Brooks shared a concept for combating vaccine hesitancy by addressing common points of resistance in his patients, called the three Cs – complacency, trust and convenience.

Complacency plagues those who think COVID is over — or who are tired and overwhelmed by the fact that, over the past two years, the virus has dominated many facets of life. Yet it continues to evolve to become more highly transmissible and more elusive of immunity from infection or vaccination. According los angeles county public health statisticsthe Omicron variant killed people in all age groups at a higher rate than motor vehicle accidents.

People worry about vaccine safety because of “the misinformation that lives on in our communities,” according to Park. “But with all the millions of doses that have been given in the United States and around the world today, we have so much information about them, and we know they are safe,” she said. declared.

“Many members of the community have expressed concerns that the vaccine was created too quickly to be safe and reliable,” Brooks said, “The mRNA platform…which has been around for about 11 years; it was developed when we had SARS CoV-1, so a lot of people forget about it because it didn’t go pandemic, and then MERS, which was Middle East respiratory syndrome, which is similar, so we use this mRNA platform.

Many people also argue that the injections do not work because they are still infected. Park said: “People say[ing] “My friend is fully vaccinated and boosted but she still has COVID”, and to that I say yes, but is she still alive? And yes, of course she is. We never promised that vaccinations would mean you wouldn’t get COVID… what we do know is that your chances of getting COVID decrease with vaccines, but the decrease is even greater when it comes to your risk of being hospitalized or dying.

As for convenience, vaccines are now available in locations across the state with relative ease of access and at no cost. There are no anticipated supply constraints, so no group has priority. People looking for vaccines or boosters can make an appointment at Myturn.ca.gov.

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