Grafton-Taylor Health Department receives updated COVID boosters

Photo courtesy of Pfizer

TAYLOR COUNTY—As individuals have returned to their new normal following the COVID pandemic, health officials have worked to ensure that residents were protected from new variants of the virus.

And with a new updated booster dose on the market, individuals will have a better chance at avoiding harsher outcomes when infected.

Late in August, the Unites States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an amendment to the emergency use authorization (EUAs) set in place for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.

The amendment authorized bivalent formulations of the vaccines as single use boosters to help increase the chance of warding off the effects of the newest forms of the virus.

“Bivalent means that it includes the regular vaccine that it had before, plus an omicron variant has been added,” explained Grafton-Taylor County Health Department Public Health Nurse Director Nelda Grymes, RN/BSN.

The new “updated boosters,” contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant.

According to the FDA, the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant are currently causing most cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and are predicted to circulate this fall and winter. 

“The COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, continue to save countless lives and prevent the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) of COVID-19,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants.”

And because new variants continue to present themselves, researcher have been working diligently to address modification of existing boosters to help fight the effects of the virus.

In fact, in June, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted overwhelmingly to include an omicron component in COVID-19 booster vaccines.

“The FDA has been planning for the possibility that the composition of the COVID-19 vaccines would need to be modified to address circulating variants,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We sought input from our outside experts on the inclusion of an omicron component in COVID-19 boosters to provide better protection against COVID-19.”

The agency worked closely with the vaccine manufacturers to ensure that the development of new boosters was done so in a safe and efficient manner.

“The public can be assured that a great deal of care has been taken by the FDA to ensure that these bivalent COVID-19 vaccines meet our rigorous safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality standards for emergency use authorization,” Marks voiced.

Following the modification to the EUA’s by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommended to use of the updated boosters.

That recommendation was endorsed by CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” she expressed. “This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

The CDC also shared that they expect to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for other pediatric groups, per the discussion and evaluation of the data by ACIP on Sept. 1, 2022, in the coming weeks.

When data are available and FDA authorizes these other types of COVID-19 boosters, CDC will quickly move to help make them available in the United States.

The Pfizer-BioNTech booster has been approved for those 12 years of age and older, while the Moderna serum can be given to individuals who are 18 years and up.

Those wishing to receive the boosters here locally are in luck, as Grymes revealed that the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department has received the updated Pfizer boosters, and that the Moderna boosters should be arriving within the next week.

She noted that as long as individuals have received their primary series of shots, they will be able to receive the boosters.

“The older version of the boosters will no longer be given out as boosters, only as initial shots in the primary series, or the first two vaccinations received,” Grymes disclosed. “However, as long as individuals are two months out from their last shot and have received their primary series, they will receive the updated booster to help protect them against the effects of the omicron variant.”

Those wishing to receive the updated boosters may do so by visiting the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department during their regular business hours, as appointments for COVID vaccinations/boosters are not required.

The health department is opened Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. and then again from 1:00 p.m. until 3:45 p.m.

For more information, please contact the health department by phone at 304-265-1288.

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