Updated COVID booster shots rolling out across the state
Updated COVID-19 booster vaccines targeting recent Omicron variants are being distributed in Nevada, offering residents a new layer of protection against the virus.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the two updated COVID-19 boosters — one from Pfizer-BioNTech for people age 12 and older, and another from Moderna that’s available to those 18 and older.
The new boosters are bivalent vaccines, meaning they stimulate the immune system against two different antigens, in this case the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are the biggest spreaders of COVID-19 currently, according to the Washoe County Health District. Unlike previous COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, this updated booster protects against BA.4 and BA.5.
"The concept of a multivalent vaccine to offer broader protection isn't new," said Dr. Nancy Diao, the division director of epidemiology and public health preparedness for the Washoe County Health District.
"Our flu vaccine for example is a quadrivalent vaccine that gets reassessed seasonally designed to protect against four different viral strains," Diao said.
The boosters are available to anyone who has had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has received those vaccines (or a booster) more than two months ago, officials said. Those who are vaccinated but have contracted COVID-19 should wait three months after the infection before getting the booster.
Though the booster is currently only available to those 12 years old and older, the CDC expects to recommend the updated booster to other “pediatric groups” within the next few weeks.
Washoe County health officials are encouraging anyone eligible to get the updated boosters before cold and flu season hits in the colder months.
"The bivalent COVID vaccine comes at a needed time as we move into the fall and winter, which is normally when respiratory disease spread becomes more active," Diao said.
The health district is holding a vaccine clinic on Thursday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center near the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.
Washoe health officials also told the media on Wednesday that the booster will be available in local pharmacies or, alternatively, people can schedule an appointment with the health district to get the booster.
As of Wednesday, the updated boosters were also available in Las Vegas at the Southern Nevada Health District clinics, said Jennifer Sizemore, SNHD's chief communications officer.
Some rural areas are still waiting on vaccines, but the Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca should be getting its shipment of the updated booster as soon as Tuesday, said a spokesperson for the hospital. Rural residents who are eligible should call their local pharmacy or clinic to see when the booster will be available.
Though COVID-19 levels across Nevada are low, the state still has an average of three deaths per day, according to the New York Times COVID tracker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone eligible be fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and its variants.
In an interview with NBC News last week, the United States’ chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said COVID-19 boosters could become an annual routine.
“We want to get into the cadance and the rhythm of about once per year get[ting] an annual shot,” Fauci said.