Los Angeles County will administer newly authorized “bivalent boosters” that specifically target the omicron variant, starting Wednesday, September 7.
The restructured bivalent (containing two different non-live SARS-CoV-2 strands) produced by both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday and were then recommended by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel on Thursday afternoon.
At the moment, omicron’s BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants are the primary causes of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. and the updated boosters will supply added protection against them, according to L.A. Public Health.
“The process for producing these boosters is the same process for producing the boosters we’ve used in the past,” Director of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a September 1 county briefing.
Unlike the previous boosters, the updated booster was created with messenger RNA (mRNA) from both the original Coronavirus strain, and the newer BA.4/BA.5 lineages.
By keeping mRNA from the original strain, the updated booster continues to provide “broad” protection, similar to its previous versions.
By adding mRNA components from the Ba.4 and BA.5, the FDA concluded that additional protection may be given to fight against COVID-19 infection caused by the omicron variant.
“Based on the data supporting each of these authorizations, the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are expected to provide increased protection against the currently circulating omicron variant,” the FDA wrote in a press release on its authorization of the boosters.
The Pfizer version of the vaccine has been given emergency use authorization for people ages 12 and over, while Moderna has been authorized for those 18 and over, with the previous versions of the boosters being de-authorized for use.
Patients must also be at least two months removed from their previous booster or vaccination.
As the CDC made its recommendations for the new boosters, there was a dissenting vote from panelist Dr. Pablo J. Sanchez.
“I understand the constant shift of these variants but studies with the BA.4 and BA.5 are ongoing in humans and I just wonder if it’s a little premature,” Sanchez said in the CDC’s meeting. “I voted no because I feel we really need the human data.”
Los Angeles Public Health said there is no indication that newer variants are at risk of spreading enough to become dominant variants, but the county is still closely monitoring a new BA.4.6 subvariant which has accounted for fewer than 10% of COVID-19 cases. The classification for the variant is still considered to be of low concern.
The latest metrics in Los Angeles show that COVID-19 deaths are “plateauing,” with infection rates continuing to decline since March, all while the county received a “low” transmission risk rating from the CDC.
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