LA County health officials concerned over low booster uptake as new subvariants loom

Officials say not enough people are taking advantage of the new COVID bivalent boosters and doctors warn of concerning signs.

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Friday, October 7, 2022
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Los Angeles County remains in the low level when it comes to COVID-19 in the community with all metrics trending downward, but health officials are concerned about new variants that can evade treatments.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County remains in the low level when it comes to COVID-19 in the community with all metrics trending downward, but health officials are concerned about new variants that can evade treatments.

Health officials say we could be in the calm before a possible surge. However, health officials say we are better prepared than ever before.

Yet, not enough people are taking advantage of the new COVID-19 bivalent boosters and doctors warn of concerning signs on the horizon.

White House health officials are warning the U.S. should be ready for a new variant that could pop up and evade prior immunity, be it from an infection or from the vaccine.

In L.A County, scientists are closely monitoring three new subvariants. The BA.4.6 subvariant increased from about 3% to 5%. It's a slow increase, yet with new infections and hospitalizations, including a slight decrease in daily deaths, are trending downward.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the slow uptake of the new bivalent COVID vaccine is worrisome.

Only 10% of people over the age of 65 have received the shot.

"Those numbers actually need to increase pretty dramatically before we get into the holiday season or we run the risk of having more transmission than we need to have," said Ferrer.

To get the word out, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla led by example rolling up his sleeve to get his dose of the vaccine.

"Everyone should do the same. Everyone who is 12 years or older and has had their primary series should get the updated booster if it's been at least two months since your last COVID vaccine or your last booster," said Padilla.

And while a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report estimates that 58% of Americans have antibodies against COVID-19, Ferrer says the booster is important because new studies show the virus is not like the flu or the cold.

Repeated infections can mean long-lasting serious symptoms, such as brain fog and fatigue.

"The risk of having long-term health conditions was three times higher for those infected, three times compared to those who were uninfected," Ferrer said.

Plus, protecting children from new infections is on the Food and Drug Administration's agenda.

An advisory panel is set to meet on granting emergency use authorization for the young Americans age 5 to 11.

"The FDA is reportedly planning to assess the Pfizer bivalent booster for children's ages five to 11 next week, and if authorized, it's likely to be available here in L.A. County as soon as October 19," Ferrer said.

New CDC data finds 86% of kids under 17 have antibodies from past COVID infections. But researchers say this doesn't mean they can't get infected again.

The best evidence shows having immunity from both infection and vaccination offers the strongest protection.