Updated Omicron COVID-19 boosters are plentiful in Los Angeles County, and officials are urging people to get the latest supply before the fall and winter holidays.
More than half a million doses have already arrived in the region, and tens of thousands more are on the way, according to public health director Barbara Ferrer. They are available at more than 1,500 locations countywide, including those affiliated with the county public health department, health clinics and retail pharmacies.
The priority, at this stage, “remains to ensure easy access to these new boosters for all who are eligible, and we remain particularly focused on ensuring good access to new boosters in the hardest hit communities.” , Ferrer told the county board of supervisors on Tuesday. .
“We are truly grateful to have this reminder to provide us with even more critical illness protection in LA County as we enter this fall,” she added.
Nearly 70% of LA County’s 10 million residents are already eligible for the new boosters, which are also called bivalent because they are designed to protect not only against the original strain of coronavirus, but also against sub-variants. Omicron BA.5 and BA.4, which dominated the country this summer.
Robust adoption of the updated reminder could help limit the severity of a fall and winter surge, officials and experts say.
“This booster will increase protection against serious illness and may provide additional protection against infection – hopefully allowing us to enjoy fall and the holidays with less disruption and illness,” Ferrer said.
It remains to be seen how high the demand is. Statewide, 72.1% of Californians have already completed their primary vaccination series, but just under 59% of eligible people have already been boosted, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented survey data suggesting that 72% of respondents said they were likely to receive an updated reminder. Still, some health officials wonder if COVID-weary residents will feel a sense of urgency to get vaccinated yet again.
“Another thing we are trying to combat is COVID fatigue – so many people who are just tired of thinking about COVID want to move on. They are tired of wondering if they need more vaccines. Maybe they don’t know if they should. Maybe they got injections to start with, the two doses, maybe a booster, but they don’t want to continue because they seem to think there’s just no end to all this vaccination,” said Dr. Maggie Park, of San Joaquin County. public health official, said during a recent briefing hosted by California’s Vaccinate All 58 campaign.
Park and other health officials, including at the federal level, have pointed out that flu shots have become an annual tradition for many, and so could COVID-19 shots, at least in the short term. term.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that, in anticipation of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the absence of a radically different variant, we are likely heading towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the vaccine annual flu, with an annual update. Injections of COVID-19 matched the strains currently circulating for most of the population,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said last week. U.S. government “However, some – particularly vulnerable groups – may continue to need more frequent vaccination against COVID-19.”
The new booster offers “a chance to make a real dent in the legions of vaccinated people, especially the elderly, suffering from breakthrough infection,” wrote Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert from the UC San Francisco, in an editorial published in Le Temps.
Unvaccinated people still make up the majority of patients who have died from COVID-19, but even vaccinated people can die from the disease, especially if they are at higher risk and have not received a booster shot. COVID-19 could end up causing 100,000 deaths a year nationwide — several times the deaths of the typical flu season and possibly more than the annual deaths from diabetes, Chin-Hong wrote.
“Vaccinated patients who die are disproportionately those 75 and older who did not receive a booster,” he wrote. “In talking to the families of deceased vaccinated people, I have often learned that the patient rushed to get their first two shots after the vaccine was authorized in December 2020 but did not receive a booster.”
Someone is eligible for an updated booster if they have completed their series of primary vaccinations and are at least 12 years and two months before their last injection. It does not matter how many previous booster doses you have received.
Persons aged 12 and over can no longer receive the previous booster formulation.
The COVID-19 vaccine, including updated boosters, “continues to be available free to everyone, regardless of insurance,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement to The Times this week.
Some clinics may have stopped providing COVID-19 vaccines to people who don’t have insurance, since Congress hasn’t authorized more money to reimburse vaccine administrators for the cost of injections. Still, “no one can be charged with receiving a COVID-19 vaccine,” the public health agency said.
Here is an overview of how to get vaccinated:
Retail stores such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Ralphs offer the new booster, the companies say on their websites. Check with specific stores for availability.
Los Angeles County: A list of clinics is available at vaccinatelacounty.com or by calling (833) 540-0473, seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. People who cannot leave their homes can call the county and ask officials to send a vaccinator to administer home vaccine. The Long Beach Health Agency operates its own booster clinics; information can be found at (562) 570-4636.
San Diego County: Walk-in callback clinics operated by the County Public Health Department are available throughout the county.
Orange County: Appointments for booster shots can be made at othena.com. (714) 834-2000.
Riverside County: Bivalent booster clinics are now operational. (951) 358-5000.
San Bernardino County: The updated booster is now available on a site collection. (909) 387-3911.
Ventura County: The updated reminder is available at county public health clinics in Oxnard and selected mobile clinics.
As it takes at least two weeks for the effects of the booster to provide full protection, officials are urging people to get vaccinated before the fall and winter holiday season, when an increase in coronavirus cases is possible. . During the first fall-winter season of the pandemic – in 2020 – coronavirus cases in LA County began to increase in November and accelerated sharply in December; last year, cases increased dramatically in December.
The rate of new hospitalizations for COVID-19 has declined so much that LA County entered the “low” COVID-19 community level on September 1, an indicator of a relatively light burden on the healthcare system.
For now, coronavirus cases continue to decline in the county. At the peak of Omicron’s summer surge, LA County averaged nearly 6,900 cases per day. But for the seven-day period that ended Wednesday, LA County averaged about 1,700 coronavirus cases per day, a 12% decrease from the previous week.
Per capita, this represents 118 cases per week per 100,000 inhabitants. A case rate of 100 or more is considered high; between 50 and 99 is considered substantial; and 10 to 49 is moderate.
It’s possible LA County could go from the “high” level of COVID-19 transmission – which only measures case rates and not hospitalization rates – to the “substantial” level later this week, according to Ferrer. . She added that she was in talks with the CDC about when it might be appropriate to end the local masking requirement for indoor public transportation, including airport terminals, buses, subways. , train stations and public transport services.
On its website, the CDC still recommends that people wear masks in such settings. But those guidelines haven’t been updated since April, when a federal judge overturned the agency’s earlier order requiring masks on public transportation.
Only a handful of transit agencies or local governments still require passengers to wear masks. They include BART, which operates a 50-station, 131-mile commuter rail system in the San Francisco Bay Area; and AC Transit, which operates buses in East Bay communities such as Oakland, Fremont, Hayward and Berkeley.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul ended the requirement to wear masks on public transit in her state last week. New York’s subway and bus system has decided to make mask-wearing optional, and free masks will still be available in subway station cabs and on commuter trains.
If LA County reports less than 100 coronavirus cases per week per 100,000 residents, Ferrer said his agency is prepared to lower its recommendation for universal masking in indoor public places.
Instead, the county would say that indoor masking “is an individual preference” unless required by the state, which still requires face coverings to be worn in places such as healthcare facilities. , nursing homes, homeless shelters and cooling centers, or if mandated by a particular business or location.
“At lower levels of transmission, the risk of becoming infected or infecting others is reduced,” Ferrer said.
The possible downgrade of the masking recommendation for LA County is in line with CDC guidelines. However, the California Department of Public Health still strongly recommends universal masking in indoor public places.
Ferrer said it’s likely LA County would retain its requirement that people mask up if they were a “close contact” of someone infected with coronavirus, defined as someone who shared the same indoor space with an infected person for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.
LA County requires these people to wear a mask around others for 10 days after an exposure.
The county rule is similar to one issued by the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA. The state agency requires employees exposed to the coronavirus to wear a mask for 10 days on the job after exposure.
LA County also requires people who have been infected with the coronavirus, but are no longer required to self-isolate, to remain masked between the sixth and tenth day after symptoms appear or their first positive test .
Los Angeles Times