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As LA’s COVID Community Levels Fall, It’s Time For A New Vaccine Booster

A health worker wearing a yellow shirt administers a COVID shot to a woman at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Watts, Los Angeles on May 5th 2022
A health worker wearing a yellow shirt administers a COVID shot to a woman at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Watts, Los Angeles on May 5th 2022
(Ashley Balderrama
For LAist)
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Angelenos will be able to receive the first updated coronavirus vaccine next week. Los Angeles County health officials expect 170,000 doses will be shipped to the county and plan to begin administering doses as soon as Sept. 7.

The new boosters come as COVID-19 cases decline, but health officials hope people think about the longer term as we enter the third pandemic winter.

“Our priority will be to make sure that for older people, people with underlying health conditions, people with increased risk who have lots of exposures, that we are getting them in and boosted,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told a press conference Thursday.

The new shots utilize messenger RNA (mRNA) and are bivalent – one half is the original shot and one half is a reformation designed specifically for omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which together account for 89% of all cases in the U.S. right now.

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You can find sites offering the boosters here, when they become available.

The FDA cleared two options this week: one made by Pfizer for people as young as 12, and the other by Moderna, for adults 18 and older. The doses can be given to people who have completed their initial shots, whether or not they have also received boosters, as long as their last shot was at least two months ago.

On Thursday, expert advisors to the CDC signed off on the shots, endorsing the booster for all adults. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave her formal approval soon afterward, which means health providers can administer the boosters as soon as they receive them.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” Walensky said in a statement.

Ferrer said close to 7 million people in L.A. County are estimated to be eligible.

“We anticipate about half of those people will be very interested and coming in initially and getting vaccinated,” she said.

COVID Levels Fall, But Summer Elderly Deaths Rise

The community level of COVID-19 in L.A. County has fallen to low, based on hospitalizations and cases, according to the CDC, reflecting minimal stress on hospitals.

“Given the decline in our case rate and the absence of increases in the circulation of new subvariants, we are encouraged that risk is declining for many people in the county,” Ferrer said.

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A data table showing people 65 and over had higher COVID-19 deaths in summer 2022 compared to summer 2021.

But age plays a significant role. Data presented Thursday show COVID death rates have been higher this summer than last for elderly people.

Known daily cases in L.A. County fell by 16% in the past week to 2,600, reflecting the declining cases across the nation. Public Health reported 2,566 new cases Thursday, and the county’s positivity rate declined to 8%.

Ferrer said the county’s transmission is “significantly high,” and urged people to take precautions such as meeting outside in the shade and testing before gatherings.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

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