With New Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance, Public Health Encourages Eligible Residents to Get Bivalent Vaccines, Boosters

Everyone Ages 6 Months and Older Should Have At Least One Bivalent Vaccine Dose

AMTV/LOS ANGELES, April 21 – Two days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 vaccine guidance, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is asking residents, especially older people, to check and make sure they have the most up-to-date protection available, which includes at least one bivalent booster.

On Wednesday, the CDC gave adults 65 years and older the option to get a second bivalent booster at least four months after their first dose, resulting in new eligibility for more than 335,000 Los Angeles County residents. They also made a second bivalent booster available to people who are immunocompromised at least two months after their first bivalent booster.

In addition, the CDC replaced the original monovalent vaccines, formulated for the original COVID-19 strain, an action that took effect this week in Los Angeles County. Anyone not yet vaccinated can now get a single dose of the bivalent booster in place of the multi-dose series for the most up-to-date protection against COVID-19 infection.

For many of the 1.7 million residents of Los Angeles County who have already received the bivalent booster, their protections are up to date, and they are not eligible for additional doses at this time. The bivalent booster was approved in September and is proven effective against the currently circulating Omicron strains. Anyone vaccinated before September has not yet gotten a bivalent dose.

As older adults remain among the most vulnerable to hospitalization and death due to COVID-19, it is especially important that the county’s nearly 750,000 residents 65 and older who haven’t received their first bivalent booster consider taking advantage of the added protection.

Studies and clinical data provide mounting evidence on the effectiveness of the bivalent vaccine at reducing the risk of symptomatic infection and severe illness, especially among people 65 and older. Local data correlates well with the research findings.

Hospitalization rates, as of the 90-day period ending April 3, were nearly double for people 65 and older who were vaccinated without the updated bivalent booster compared to people in the same age group who were vaccinated and received the bivalent booster. And those unvaccinated in this age group were five times more likely to be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated and received the bivalent booster.

For the 90-day period ending March 27, among residents 65 and older, those who were vaccinated without the bivalent booster died from COVID-19 at twice the rate of people who were vaccinated and had received the bivalent booster. Unvaccinated residents 65 and older had the highest death rate from COVID-19 and were six times more likely to die than those in this age group who were vaccinated and had received the bivalent booster.

Public Health is offering bivalent vaccines and boosters to eligible residents at no cost at hundreds of locations throughout Los Angeles County, regardless of their insurance or immigration status. Vaccination locations and appointments can be found at VaccinateLACounty.com or VacunateLosAngeles.com (en español) or by calling 1-833-540-0473.

For residents who have difficulties leaving their home, Public Health offers free in-home COVID-19 vaccine and booster appointments. Appointments may be booked at ph.lacounty.gov/vaxathome or by calling the Public Health COVID-19 Call Center at 1-833-540-0473.

In Los Angeles County, XBB.1.5 remains the dominant variant, and regular variant surveillance is not indicating that any new strains are rapidly gaining dominance. Public Health is also tracking five new strains XBB.1.5.1, XBB.1.9.1, XBB.1.9.2, XBB.1.16, and FD.2, following the lead of the CDC, which recently added these to their variant tracker dashboard, which happens when the strain accounts for 1% or more of sequenced specimens nationally. All the new strains are descendants of Omicron and circulating at very low levels in Los Angeles County; the bivalent vaccine is expected to provide protection against them.

“I would like to offer my condolences to those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and wish you comfort and healing,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.Ed., Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “While vaccines are not a guarantee against severe illness and death, the data we have illustrates the very real protection offered by the bivalent booster even against the newer variants circulating now. I know that sorting through the new guidance can seem complicated, however, there is one simple way to think about it: everyone 6 months and older should have at least one bivalent booster, whether that is their first COVID vaccine, or their fifth, or one in a series for young children. And those who are 65 and older or immunocompromised now have the option to receive additional bivalent doses. As we think about the implications of the new vaccine guidance, it is worth noting how many millions of people in Los Angeles County can take an action immediately to increase their protection from severe illness from COVID-19.”

The weekly reported case count for COVID-19 increased slightly from the week prior from 3,023 last week to 3,114 this week, although the overall trend remains stable. Reported weekly deaths decreased slightly from 59 last week to 44 this week. The 7-day average number of COVID hospitalizations is 328 this week, a decrease from 348 last week.

Los Angeles County remains in the CDC’s Low COVID-19 Community Level for the 14th consecutive week. This includes a weekly reported case rate of 30 new cases per 100,000 people. The 7-day total for new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people is currently 3.2. And the 7-day average of the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is now 1.9%.

As of Tuesday, April 18, there have been a total of 36,146 deaths in Los Angeles County.

Public Health is now reporting COVID data weekly. The following table shows the weekly reported case counts, average number of daily hospitalizations, and weekly reported death counts in Los Angeles County over the past four weeks.

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