LA County enters the coronavirus booster era

LA County enters the coronavirus booster era

Even with overall vaccination rates still too low to attain herd immunity, Los Angeles County officially entered its coronavirus-era booster shot phase on Friday, Sept. 24, beginning distribution of a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine to vulnerable populations after a key federal agency signed off on its safety late this week.

The distribution represented a new chapter in the nearly two-year-old battle against the disease, which by Friday claimed another 32 lives, bringing the death toll since the pandemic began to 25,972, and infected another 1,571, bringing total caseload to 1,451,438. Hospitalizations continued to decline in the county on Friday, sliding to 956, a drop of 35 from the previous day. People in intensive care dropped by four, to 310.

Starting immediately, a third, booster dose can be given to:

–People 65 years or older;

–Residents of long-term care facilities;

–People 18 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions; and

–People 18 to 64 years with high institutional or occupational risk. This group included healthcare workers, first responders, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers, and workers in homeless shelters or prisons.

The boosters will be given only to those who received a second of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago.

“We thank the FDA and the CDC for their thorough and thoughtful review of the data surrounding boosters,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of Public Health. “The L.A. County vaccination network is prepared to offer boosters today while continuing to prioritize getting first doses to those eligible and not yet vaccinated.”

It is that group of unvaccinated people that L.A. County public health officials are most concerned about. Only 59% of the county’s 10.3 million people have been fully vaccinated, a number that falls short of what potentially could be herd immunity.

In fact, by the end of this week, the number of people being vaccinated in the county was going in the wrong direction.

“The number of people being newly vaccination each week is actually decreasing,” Ferrer said Thursday. “It indicates a sustained slowing in our vaccination progress. Not everyone who eligible for a vaccine is getting vaccinated.”

Particularly concerning to officials has been the lack of vaccinations among African-Americans, which is pushing this population to the top of statistics revealing who is most seriously ill. Hospitalization rates are highest among unvaccinated Black residents, followed by White and Latinx residents.

Ferrer has noted that the issue speaks to a history of inadequate healthcare and health disparities in communities of color, where comorbidities and distrust of vaccines are manifesting themselves in the human toll.

“Our trend lines validate this deplorable reality, which continues to contribute to the higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths linked to COVID-19 experienced by our Black residents,” Ferrer said.

Officials continue to push to close the vaccination gap, despite relatively good overall numbers, compared to the increases seen during the “summer surge” of 2021. For instance, overall hospitalizations in the region fell by 35 beds on Friday to 951, a welcome sign that recent efforts to encourage masking and beef up vaccination requirements at places of risk are working, public health officials.

President Joe Biden said Friday that if you’re vaccinated, “You’re in good shape and we’re doing everything we can to keep it that way, which is where the booster comes in.” He urged those now eligible for an extra shot to “go get the booster,” saying he’d get his own soon — and that everyone should be patient and wait their turn.

The U.S. had already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.

Locally, officials have discouraged “mixing and matching” vaccines, urging people to consult their physician if they are considering such a scenario.

With the approval, Ferrer said the county’s network of vaccinators will begin accepting eligible groups via appointments at one of the 1,300 sites through the state’s MyTurn system.

You can also make appointments at pharmacies and clinics, as well as 400 county mobile vaccination teams. There also several walk-in sites, which you can find through vaccinatelacounty.com.

Boosters are currently only available to residents who received Pfizer. Residents who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will need to wait until the FDA reviews the data about boosters and determines the need for and safety of boosters for these vaccines.

But officials say the Moderna vaccine has held up slightly better than the Pfizer vaccine in studies.

Coronavirus protection offered by Moderna’s mRNA vaccine held strong and did not wane for more than five months after the second shot, a new study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows.

In a study of more than 30,000 participants, the vaccine remained safe and effective for an average of 5.3 months after their second shot. Even after the time had passed, the shot was 93.2% effective in preventing illness from COVID-19, and 98.2% effective in preventing severe disease.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Latest Category Posts