Updated COVID-19 booster now available locally

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By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

Last week, updated COVID-19 booster doses — designed to offer protection against both the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron variant — were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The final approval for both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s updated boosters came on Sept. 1.

Doses of the updated vaccine began arriving in the area on Tuesday, Sept. 6, according to Megan Graham, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) communications director and COVID-19 public information officer.

“We’re very excited that the Omicron booster is available in our communities and really urge people to go out and get that shot to give themselves as much protection as possible heading into the colder season,” Graham said.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), anyone 12 years of age and older who has completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines should receive an Omicron dose.

“A primary series usually means two doses of Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson,” a CDPHE press release explains. “People who are immunocompromised may receive up to three doses in their primary series.”

The CDPHE also explains in the press release that anyone who has previously received a third, fourth, or fifth dose — also known as booster doses — should receive an Omicron dose. 

People should get their Omicron dose at least two months after their most recent dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and can wait three months after a recent COVID-19 infection, it explains.

“All viruses mutate over time, including the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the CDPHE, via the press release. “It is common practice to adapt vaccines to target new strains of a virus, as we do every year with the flu vaccine. These omicron doses have been formulated to protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants dominant in the United States and Colorado right now.”

Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Omicron doses use the same mRNA-based technology as the original versions of the COVID-19 vaccines, the press release notes, adding, “In clinical studies, the new omicron doses successfully stimulated the immune system to produce antibodies. Antibodies are proteins in the blood that fight specific invaders in the body, like viruses.” 

The release further explains that, as of Aug. 31, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s original COVID-19 vaccines are only authorized as primary series vaccines for people aged 12 years and older. People too young to receive an Omicron dose can still receive a third dose of the original COVID-19 vaccine.

Graham encouraged people to talk to their medical provider, pharmacy or vaccine bus about availability of the doses and noted that SJBPH has doses at its offices in Pagosa Springs in Durango and more providers are receiving doses. 

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, eligibility and local providers, visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/. More information about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as assistance scheduling an appointment, is available at covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine. The public can also call SJBPH at (970) 247-5702 or Colorado’s Vaccine Hotline at (877) 268-2926 to get help finding a vaccine.

Local numbers

Graham noted COVID-19 is forecast to continue to level or decline for the next six weeks or so, but noted that with school starting, health officials are seeing a little bit of an uptick in cases of school-age children and young adults.

As of Aug. 1, Archuleta County was listed as being at a medium risk level on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Community Levels.

The CDC’s Community Levels are updated each Thursday, with the CDC website explaining the agency looks at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days — to determine the COVID-19 community level.

As of Sept. 1, the CDC reports 10 new COVID admissions per 100,000 people and 3.9 percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Hospital data is determined regionally.

The CDC lists Archuleta County as having 64.15 new cases per 100,000 population over the past seven days.

As of Wednesday, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) listed Archuleta County as having a one-week rate of 112.2 new cases per 100,000 population and a one-week positivity rate of 16 percent.

Archuleta County is listed as having 17 deaths among COVID cases.

At-home tests and
masks available 

At-home tests and KN95 masks are available for free at the SJBPH offices in both Durango and Pagosa Springs.

More information on testing can be found at https://sjbpublichealth.org/testing/. 

Treatments available for high-risk individuals

COVID-19 treatments for people who currently have mild to moderate symptoms and are not in the hospital for COVID-19, but who are at high risk of getting very sick, continue to be available.

For more information on those treatment options or the state’s telehealth program, visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-treatments/ or covid19.colorado.gov/treatments.