Los Angeles County residents will soon have access to updated vaccines designed to target COVID-19 strains currently circulating. The updated vaccine is strongly recommended this fall for residents ages 6 months and older, according to a news release from the L.A. County Public Health Department.
With nearly 22 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in Los Angeles County over the past three years, the county Department of Public Health has seen first-hand how the vaccine provides residents with a safe, effective and easy way to protect against severe illness from the virus, the news release said, adding that data also shows vaccines can lessen the risk of getting long COVID and other post-COVID conditions.
Indicators of COVID-19 transmission, including more outbreaks in schools, work sites and skilled nursing facilities, have increased in Los Angeles County over the past few weeks, the release said.
“Updated vaccines will restore waning protection against the COVID-19 virus and enhance protection against new variants of the virus, even if a person had earlier versions of the vaccine, had COVID-19 in the past or are in good health and don’t get sick often,” the release said. “Everyone over the age of 6 months is encouraged to get at least one dose of the updated vaccine. The updated vaccine targets the Omicron variant XBB.1.5; more than 95% of COVID-19 strains currently circulating in Los Angeles County are descendants of the XBB strain.”
For children under 5 years old who have never been vaccinated against COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two Moderna doses or three Pfizer doses of the newly updated vaccine. People with weakened immune systems should work with their provider to determine the number of doses and vaccine schedule that is best for them.
Pregnant people can prepare to protect their newborns and infants under 6 months old, who are not yet eligible to receive their own COVID-19 vaccines, by getting vaccinated against the virus, the release said. Pregnant people pass along antibodies to their babies before birth so that they have protection against severe illness due to COVID-19 in their first few months of life. Nationally, infants have the second highest rate of hospitalization from COVID after individuals over the age of 75, the release said.
The COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu and other vaccines. People over 60 years old should speak to their health care providers about also getting the RSV vaccine, which protects against the respiratory syncytial virus. Older adults are at higher risk of getting very sick from any respiratory illness.
The updated COVID-19 vaccines will likely be widely available in Los Angeles County by the middle of next week, with some retail sites having doses as early as this weekend. Pharmacies and health care providers will receive orders directly from the manufacturers and provide information to their patients and customers about availability. Health insurance plans are expected to cover the full cost.
Any resident who is seeking vaccination will be able to do so regardless of insurance or immigration status.
Free vaccines will be available to uninsured and underinsured children and adults at many participating retail pharmacies, health care providers and health centers through a federal program called the CDC Bridge Access Program. Public Health is finalizing distribution plans for its public health clinics and mobile teams pending arrival of the vaccines. The department will focus on making sure the county’s most vulnerable populations, including elderly and disabled people, have easy access to the new vaccines.
Children who are uninsured or have Medi-CAL can receive the newly updated COVID vaccine for free through the Vaccine for Children program. A list of these providers can also be found at bit.ly/VaccineForChildrenSites.
To find vaccine locations, visit ph.lacounty.gov/vaccines. Anyone who has questions, needs assistance with appointments, or are homebound and need to be vaccinated can contact the Public Health Call Center, which is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The number is 1-833-540-0473.
In Los Angeles County, while measures are relatively low compared to other points during the pandemic, there have been increased numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks. Over the past four weeks, the average daily number of COVID-related hospitalizations has increased by over 40%, from 430 to 612. This week Public Health officials are reporting an average of 4 deaths per day, three times higher than what was reported the week before.
Los Angeles County remains in the CDC Low Hospital Admission Level with 7.2 weekly COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people, reported on Sept. 11 for the seven-day period ending Sept. 3.