In the face of record daily COVID-19 infections, the city of Long Beach has begun offering vaccine booster shots for children ages 12 to 15 and for immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11.
Boosters were previously only authorized for those 16 and older. The booster will be Pfizer brand, as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are only available for those 18 and older.
“The science tells us the omicron variant is highly contagious and causing an unprecedented rise in cases,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “Data also shows that being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and getting a booster can make symptoms much less severe and reduce the possibility of hospitalization. Right now, it’s as important as ever to make sure everyone in your household is vaccinated and boosted—and especially our youth.”
Long Beach on Monday continued to see a surge in cases, with 1,878 new infections reported. The city also reported three new deaths and 310 people hospitalized, up from 271 on Friday. Of those being tested for COVID-19, nearly 30% are now testing positive.
The booster shots will be available five months after an eligible person receives his or her second dose of a vaccine. In Long Beach, 6,720 12- to 15-year-olds who completed the Pfizer two-dose series by Aug. 7 will be eligible.
Third doses for moderately or severely immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 should be administered 28 days after their second dose.
All minors need parental consent in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccination; parents or guardians can give consent when making an appointment through My Turn. Boosters will also be available at all city-run vaccine sites, which operate six days per week and have both day and evening appointments available. Up-to-date schedules can be found at longbeach.gov/vaxlb or by calling 562-570-4636.
As an additional precaution during the dramatic surge in COVID-19 infections, Los Angeles County’s public health director on Tuesday urged residents to avoid non-essential activities in the coming weeks, particularly those that are indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or higher-risk people.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said nearly 35,000 new infections were expected to be reported Tuesday when official numbers are released, along with 15 more deaths.
“While we’re in the surge, we do ask that you exercise more caution, even if you’re vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said during Tuesday’s County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Her comments came as state figures showed the number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals rising to 3,766, up from 3,472 on Monday. The number of those patients in intensive care rose to 513, up from 482 a day earlier.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, said that despite rising patient numbers, the omicron-fueled surge is playing out differently in hospitals than earlier surges.
She said last fall, about one-third of COVID patients wound up in ICU care, but that number is only about 10-15% this time around, at least in the four county-operated hospitals, which likely reflect conditions in other medical centers.
She also said that about 40% of COVID-positive patients at the county hospitals were admitted specifically because of the virus, while the rest only learned they were infected upon admission for something else. During the last winter surge, 80-90% of the COVID patients were admitted due to virus-related illness.
Ghaly said that despite the changes and numbers that are still dwarfed last winter’s surge—when more than 8,000 COVID patients were hospitalized—current staffing shortages are creating more critical conditions at hospitals.
Ghaly said three Los Angeles-area hospitals—Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, Little Company of Mary in San Pedro and Antelope Valley Hospital—have all established surge units to help handle the increase in patients.
Ferrer again stressed that while the omicron variant is easily capable of infecting vaccinated people, the shots are still proving to be effective in preventing infected people from winding up hospitalized.
She said unvaccinated people are nine times more likely to be hospitalized than fully vaccinated people, and 38 times more likely to be hospitalized than people who are fully vaccinated and received a booster shot.
On Monday, the county reported 43,582 new COVID cases, bringing the county’s cumulative total to 2,010,964 since the pandemic began.
City News Service contributed to this report.