New Bivalent Boosters Provide Omicron Variant Protection From Predicted Surge

Maxim Elramsisy | California black media

California has begun 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 12 and older.

That Western State Scientific Safety Review Workgroup independently reviewed the booster vaccination and recommended that it be given to people who have already received a primary vaccination course, regardless of the status of the booster vaccination.

The updated boosters will be “bivalent”, providing protection against the original strains of coronavirus 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+, while the Moderna bivalent booster is approved for ages 18+. The bivalent boosters are not approved for children under the age of 12.

“We’re approaching an analogy with the flu vaccines,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, Senior Medical Officer, Office of the State Epidemiologist, California Department of Public Health, during a recent ethnic media-sponsored COVID-19 panel discussion with fellow medical doctors and public health officials: Dr. Maggie Park, District 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 we need to get a flu vaccine every year to make sure we get the updated vaccine… we’re moving in the same direction with COVID-19 that we believe will be important, to have them at least an annual refresher.”

“The goal and our hope is to continue on the path with a low number of cases and prevent a surge in COVID cases this winter. For this reason, public health officials are urging individuals to obtain the updated refresher,” Chavez said.

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

The vaccines are also an important tool in preventing “long COVID,” in which symptoms such as headaches, brain fog and fatigue can last more than six months.

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

“BA.5 has been the predominant circulating variant since July and still accounts for about 87% of all newly diagnosed COVID cases, with BA.4 making up pretty much the rest,” Park said. “I would like to say that the launch of this new booster is actually quite timely as many models are predicting that we are going to face another COVID-19 surge this fall or winter and we need to be ready.”

While scientists believe many people infected in the recent COVID wave will have natural immunity for some time, after about 90 days that type of protection begins to wear off. So even people who have had COVID in the past should consider a booster shot about 3 months after infection.

Vaccination hesitancy continues in California. 72% of all people have received basic vaccinations, but only 58.8% of those who are eligible for booster vaccinations have received a booster vaccination.

This is worrying because, according to Dr. Brooks “unvaccinated people [account for] 2.4x more cases, 4.6x more hospital admissions, 8x more deaths.”

Brooks shared a concept for combating vaccination hesitation by responding to his patients’ common points of resistance, known as the three Cs – complacency, confidence, and convenience.

Complacency stalks those who believe COVID is over — or who are tired and overwhelmed by the fact that the virus has dominated many facets of life in recent years. However, it is still evolving to become more easily transmissible and better able to evade immunity from infection or vaccination. Corresponding Statistics from the Los Angeles County of Public Healththe Omicron variant killed people of all ages more than car accidents.

Park says people are concerned about the safety of the vaccines because of “misinformation being circulated in our communities.” “But with all the millions of doses that have been administered in the United States and around the world today, we have so much information about them, and we know they’re safe,” she said.

“Many in the community have expressed concern that the vaccine was being developed 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 because it didn’t become pandemic, and then MERS, that was Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, which is similar, so we use that mRNA platform.”

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

For convenience, vaccines are now relatively easily accessible and available for free in locations across the state. There are no anticipated supply shortages, so there are no priority groups. Those looking for vaccinations or booster shots can make an appointment at Myturn.ca.gov.

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