Few Long Beach residents have gotten new COVID booster aimed at omicron variant

Less than 3 percent of eligible Long Beach residents have received the new COVID-19 booster shot specifically targeting the omicron variant, according to new data provided by city health officials.

As of Oct. 12, just 9,281 Long Beach residents have received the bivalent booster, according to the Long Beach Health Department. Until Wednesday, the shots were only authorized for individuals 12 and up, though the Food and Drug Administration has now authorized the new booster for everyone 6 and up.

There were 392,350 people in Long Beach who were eligible for a bivalent booster as of yesterday, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, meaning that just 2.4% of them have so far received the shot.

About 78% of residents of all ages have received at least one vaccine shot, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. About 40% of all residents have received some sort of COVID-19 booster, though the dashboard doesn’t detail the type or number of booster shots.

Though just a few residents have gotten the bivalent booster so far, city health officials said they are pleased.

“It’s encouraging to see how many folks have taken advantage of the bivalent booster, which provides protection against omicron and its subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.5,” said Health Department spokesperson Jennifer Rice Epstein.

Long Beach is lagging behind Los Angeles County on the bivalent booster, where 4% of eligible residents (about 355,000) have received the shot, according to the county’s COVID dashboard. This mirrors the national average, with about 4% of all eligible Americans having received the bivalent shot, the Washington Post reported on Oct. 7.

Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of population health and disease prevention at UC Irvine, offered a few reasons as to why so few people across the country have gotten the new booster shot.

First, Noymer said he believed that health agencies have not done an adequate sales pitch on the new vaccines. A general public belief that the pandemic is over—assisted by President Joe Biden saying that on 60 Minutes on Sept. 18—also contributed to the lack of urgency, Noymer said. This leads to people who see themselves as having a low risk of dying from COVID-19 deciding to skip the shot, Noymer added.

“I do think these numbers will go up somewhat,” Noymer said. He also noted that while public health specialists “don’t actually know how well it will protect people, I certainly recommend that people get it. I absolutely see a winter surge” of new COVID-19 infections, Noymer said, and the new booster could do much to alleviate that.

A slight majority of adults in the U.S. have little to no knowledge of the new booster shots, according to a recent survey.

Fifty-one percent of adults nationwide have heard “a little” or “nothing at all” about the new bivalent boosters, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released on Sept. 30.

When broken down by age group, adults 65 and older have heard the most about the new shots, with 61% reporting that they have heard “some” or “a lot” about the updated vaccine, while just 33% of adults 18-29 reported similar knowledge, according to the poll.

Long Beach began offering the bivalent boosters on Sept. 7. The shots are offered on a walk-up basis at all city-run COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

The bivalent booster contains vaccines against both the original strain of COVID-19 and the omicron variant, which has been the dominant COVID-19 variant in the U.S. for the past few months.

Though cases of COVID-19 are relatively low right now, getting the bivalent booster is one of the best ways to prevent a winter surge of the virus, Rice Epstein said.

“We also encourage everyone to receive their flu shot, which they can do along with their booster,” she said.

While the original vaccine did provide some measure of protection against severe illness and death from the omicron variant, the new bivalent booster shot provides far better protection against virus transmission, Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Public Health Director, said in an Oct. 7 statement.

“For so many of us who are already fully vaccinated and boosted with one or more doses, it may be confusing to hear that we need another booster,” Ferrer said in the statement. “With the cooler weather and Fall holidays, many more of us will be staying indoors, gathering with others, or traveling, so it is still practical to follow all health safety measures.”

Long Beach to begin offering new booster for current COVID-19 variants


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