Los Angeles County’s public health director Thursday touted the safety of a newly approved COVID-19 vaccine booster that targets the Omicron variant of the virus, comparing the adjustments in the shot to those performed annually for the flu vaccine to address new strains of the illness.
“The same concept was used in updating the COVID booster to create this bivalent booster,” Barbara Ferrer said. “Viral data from around the world was used to inform updates of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. At this point the pandemic, there is extensive safety and effectiveness data on the mRNA vaccines … and their effectiveness against COVID-19.”
The newly approved booster shots became available at vaccination sites around L.A. County on Wednesday, directly targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant. BA.5 is believed to be responsible for the vast majority of infections occurring in the county and nationally.
The newly approved Pfizer/BioNTech booster is for those age 12 and over, while the Moderna bivalent booster is for those age 18 and older. Details on where the vaccines are available can be found at vaccinatelacounty.com, or in Spanish, vacunatelosangeles.com.
“Since the new booster directly targets the most dominant subvariant circulating at the moment, we’re hopeful that by getting this bivalent booster, everyone eligible will be able to have greatly increased protection against the current strains of the virus, providing increased protection, as we know, against both severe disease and even getting infected in the first place,” Ferrer said.
The county on Thursday, Sept. 8, reported 1,767 new COVID-19 infections, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,423,672. Another 15 virus-related deaths were reported, giving the county an overall death toll of 33,334. Health officials have noted that official case numbers are likely low due to the number of people who rely on at-home tests but do not report the results to the county.
According to state figures, there were 780 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, down from 783 a day earlier. Of those patients, 101 were being treated in intensive care. County officials have said about 43% of patients with COVID were actually hospitalized due to virus-related illness, while the rest were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested upon admission.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 7.6% as of Thursday, roughly the same as the past week.