The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized a second COVID-19 booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people age 50 and up, at least four months after receiving their first booster shot. Also, shortly after the national announcement, the LA County Department of Public Health announced that its vaccination sites would start administering the second boosters for those who are eligible the very next day. The County vaccine sites include:
- Obregon Park (East Los Angeles)
- Ted Watkins Park (South Los Angeles)
- Balboa Sports Complex (Encino)
- Commerce Senior Citizens Center (Commerce)
- Market Street Center (Santa Clarita)
- Palmdale Oasis Recreation Center (Palmdale)
- Norwalk Arts and Sports Complex (Norwalk).
Commercial vendors will be offering the boosters, too, of course, but some may still be in ramp-up mode. Buzz contributor Dan Kegel tried to contact Rite Aide, CVS, Ralphs and Walgreens on Tuesday afternoon, following the original announcement, but found that only the Rite Aid website at that point had been updated with the latest booster information and was accepting appointments for the new boosters. Kegel made an appointment for yesterday (Wednesday) at the Rite Aid near Venice and Washington Blvds., and when he got his shot there, he was told the store is getting lots of interest, and supplies were already running low.
If you have questions about why or whether or not you should get this fourth shot, we found some good answers in the “Your Local Epidemiolgist” blog, where Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD, an epidemiologist, biostatistician, professor, and researcher, writes that:
- According to a recent study from Israel, the benefits of a fourth dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines aren’t as strong as the benefits of the third dose (the margin of extra protection is smaller), but it does offer some additional protection, and because the risks of serious side effects are extremely low, the benefits of getting the second booster will probably outweigh the risks for most people who are eligible.
- There may or may not be another wave of COVID coming soon, but it’s better to get the booster now than waiting for the next wave to hit, so you’re already protected if/when it arrives.
- Hybrid immunity (vaccines + a previous COVID infection) can be very effective, so you might not need a booster yet if you have had COVID, but since we don’t yet know how long hybrid immunity lasts, and don’t get the additional booster now, you might be more at risk at some point in the future.
- The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both use the same mechanisms, but they are different, so your overall immunity might be best if you mix and match the shots (e.g. get a Moderna booster if your original shots were Pfizer, or vice versa).
- J&J vaccines were slightly less effective than the Pfizer/Moderna shots in their initial doses, so the extra Moderna/Pfizer boosters are definitely recommended for those who received the J&J vaccine originally.
The bottom line, writes Jetelina, is that “If you’re eligible, get your booster. Does a healthy 50 year-old adult need to rush and get one tomorrow? No. But I would put it on your to-do list. The older you are, the higher priority it should be on your to-do list. The future is uncertain, and the benefits of vaccines continue to outweigh the risks.” (See her full post at the link above for even more good information.)
Meanwhile, in the second noteworthy COVID-19 development this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday that the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron strain of the virus is now the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for about 55% of samples, which is up from 39% a week earlier. According to the LA Times, the rates for the southwestern states (California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii) were a bit higher still, with BA.2 now comprising 60.5% of samples across the region, up from 45% a week earlier.
According to the same story, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean a new surge is coming:
“Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a UCLA epidemiologist and infectious disease expert, said he expects the likely scenario for California in the coming weeks is either a mild increase in coronavirus cases or a leveled-off decrease.
Kim-Farley doesn’t expect a major surge in California, “just because so many people are immune, due to vaccination or to natural immunity from a recent infection.” He has said he’d be more concerned about a new variant that would render existing immunizations and natural immunity less effective.”
And finally in this week’s big COVID-19 news, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 yesterday to rescind the requirement, in effect since November 8, that people show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or a recent negative COVID test, to enter bars, restaurants, gyms, large mega events, and some other kinds of public spaces (though individual businesses and venues may still choose to maintain such requirements). The motion to repeal the city’s mandate was made by Council President Nury Martinez; the lone vote in opposition was from Councilmember Mike Bonin, who expressed concerns about future variants and surges of the virus.
Meanwhile, according to the LA Times, a state-level bill that would have “required employees and independent contractors, in both the public and private sectors, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment unless they have an exemption based on a medical condition, disability or religious beliefs,” was also put aside this week, as new case rates and hospitalizations remained low.
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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