Cottage Health, Marian haven’t ordered doses yet
Cottage Health and Marian Regional Medical Center are waiting for further information before ordering the new bivalent version of the COVID-19 vaccine, designed to tackle variants including BA.5.
But Lompoc Valley Medical Center has already ordered 1,100 doses.
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday amended the emergency use authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to allow for the bivalent formulations. The new vaccines, which the FDA calls “updated boosters,” are designed to be used as a single booster at least two months after the primary or booster vaccination.
The FDA said the new shot contains two messenger RNA components of SARS-CoV-2 virus: one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-.
On Thursday, CDC advisers voted 13-1 to recommend the new bivalent version of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The advisers are recommending that anyone 12 and older get the new shot.
“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant,” said Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, in a statement. “If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”
Dr. David Fisk, the infectious disease specialist for Cottage Health, told the News-Press that the health care system, which operates hospitals in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Solvang, has not yet ordered the vaccine.
That’s also the case at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, according to Dr. Scott Robertson, a physician at the hospital and president and CEO of Pacific Central Coast Health Centers.
“We will wait on CDC approval and follow guidance of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department,” Dr. Robertson told the News-Press Wednesday. “We have worked very closely with them, and they will continue to be a valuable partner for us in making sure the public has access to vaccinations.
“The vaccine will continue to provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalization, especially with those who are at high risk,” he said. “Side effects are the same as for the original vaccine, which include: swelling and discomfort, and specific to males under 40, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
“The benefits outweigh the risks,” Dr. Robertson told the News-Press.
Dr. Fisk spoke to concerns with the new bivalent vaccine.
“There are really no concerns unique to the reformulation. It would be the same concerns that have been around with the vaccines as we know them to date,” he told the News-Press Wednesday. “It uses the same technology as the initial vaccine from Moderna and Pfizer.”
Added Dr. Robertson, “Because it is bivalent, it contains two strains of mRNA, one that codes for the original spike protein and one for omicron. It boosts the immune response to the more prevalent variant in the community.”
The News-Press asked Dr. Fisk about the advantages of the bivalent vaccine.
“The advantages are that it’s really the same vaccine,” Dr. Fisk said. “It’s just a reformulation of the old vaccine. The advantages are significant in that the contents now trigger our immune system to target BA.5 and other related versions under the omicron umbrella.
“It’s much more specific to target omicron and other strains of the vaccine prevalent in the world right now. This new version of the vaccine is much more able to help our bodies protect themselves against BA.5 and other omicron relatives,” he said. “The vaccine is teaching your immune system; the immune system is protecting your body.
“The FDA hasn’t approved it,” Dr. Fisk said. “They have endorsed it under the umbrella of the EUA, which is different from a full FDA approval.
“I think what’s important to realize is that we are in a situation now where most of us have waning immunity from prior vaccine doses and prior booster shots. Most of us are becoming more susceptible than we were. That is combined with the historical likelihood of COVID to surge in fall and winter months.
“This presents the prime opportunity for the new vaccine,” Dr. Fisk said. “We should certainly still view COVID as a major health risk.”