New COVID boosters targeting Omicron becoming available

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 12:20 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts are readying for shipments of new COVID boosters that target the Omicron subvariants that have kept COVID levels high for months.

Christie Wills, Communications Officer for the RCAHD, said these Bivalent boosters that can address multiple Omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.5.

The boosters are intended for everyone who is eligible, particularly the elder and those with chronic disease, making them more vulnerable to serious disease and hospitalizations.

“We are encouraging everyone to go ahead and get vaccinated with this booster, because even if you may not be a high risk person, perhaps someone you know and love is in the high risk category and you can help prevent spreading the disease to them,” said Wills.

While the circulating variants appear less serious compared with previous variants of COVID, VDH acknowledges they have kept transmission high for several months. About four or five of the localities in the RCAHD remain in high transmission, according to Wills. Hospitalizations have also risen slightly in the past week compared with earlier in the spring. This, however, is still lower than what was seen in the wintertime.

The Pfizer-BioNTech booster is available for those 12 and over, the Moderna version is available for people 18 and older. Wills said if you want a booster, you will be asked by a provider to make sure at least two months have passed since your last COVID vaccine.

“They are still free from the federal government and it is available at local health departments and at pharmacies and at doctors offices,” Wills said. “A word to the wise though that at pharmacies there may be an administrative charge but if you have insurance it should be zero dollars.”

Wills said Virginia will receive more than 140,000 vials of the vaccines and appointments should be available through RCAHD starting next week. If you’re interested and eligible, you can sign up here.

Wills believes the shots may start becoming available at pharmacies, which order through the federal program, as early as Wednesday, September 7. The health district encourages everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“COVID has remained circulating in the communities now. We didn’t see a drop off. So it dropped off from the Omicron peaks in January, dropped off in the spring and then has remained elevated since April, May,” Wills said. “And these are the variants that are in circulation right now are what these booster is designed to protect against. So we would be better served as an entire community and as individuals themselves to go ahead and get vaccinated now.”

The RCAHD is not worried about supply for the shots or the ancillary supplies needed to administer them. Side effects similar to the already available COVID vaccines are expected, though Wills said VDH will be watching to determine the boosters’ overall efficacy.