Breanna Reeves |
Updated vaccine booster doses are now available at local pharmacies, doctor’s offices and community health centers. Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization of updated bivalent booster doses on September 1, the new formula is expected to offer better protection against the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra stated during a White House press briefing that by the end of the week (September 10th), over 90% of Americans will live within five miles of these new updated vaccines.
The bivalent boosters contain a formula that includes components of the initial strain of the COVID-19 virus and components of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants. The FDA authorized the use of Moderna’s bivalent booster for individuals 18 years of age and older and the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster for individuals 12 years of age and older.
“Getting an updated vaccine this fall will help restore protection that has waned since your previous vaccination. And laboratory data suggests that the addition of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components may help broaden the spectrum of variants the immune system is ready to respond to,” said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during press briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials on Sept. 6.
According to Dr. Gil Chávez, founding Chief of the Center for Infectious Diseases, Deputy Director, and State Epidemiologist in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), previous COVID-19 (monovalent) boosters will no longer be available. Individuals who are eligible for boosters will be given the bivalent doses, regardless of what previous booster an individual received.
This week, California received an initial batch of 600,000 updated booster doses, and are expecting more. Roughly 58% of the population across the state has received a primary two-dose series of the COVID-19 and a booster. Public health officials are hoping to increase that percentage as the winter season approaches, along with a COVID-19 surge.
“Most Californians are now eligible for an updated Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster and will be able to strengthen their protection against COVID-19 as we head into the fall and winter seasons,” California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and Director of CDPH Dr. Tomás J. Aragón said in a joint statement.
“Because protection from infection can decrease over time, the updated boosters are a safe way to maintain protection and reduce the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization, long COVID, and death.”
As the U.S. transitions into the endemic phase — learning to live with the COVID-19 virus — Americans will be encouraged to receive a yearly COVID-19 booster shot, similar to a yearly flu shot.
During a media briefing, Dr. Chavez explained that the immunity from having the COVID-19 infection lasts about three months and advised that those who have been infected should get a booster vaccine once they test negative for the virus.
Free of charge in California, eligible individuals can find available bivalent booster doses by visiting myturn.ca.gov or by contacting their providers.