By REBECCA HAZEN
The Georgia Department of Health is urging everyone in the state of Georgia to get the new bivalent COVID-19 booster as shipments of the vaccine arrive in the state this week.
“All boosters we’re giving at our 10 Northwest Georgia health departments will be these new bivalents,” says Dr. Gary Voccio, Health Director for the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend the bivalent booster manufactured by Pfizer for individuals aged 12 and older; and they recommend the bivalent booster by Moderna for adults aged 18 and older.
Logan Boss, Public Information Officer for Georgia Department of Health’s Northwest Health District, explained the makeup of the new booster.
“The current covid booster contains the genetic code for the original strain of COVID-19, but this new bivalent booster contains those recipes for the original strain plus the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The BA.5 is the one that is currently almost 90 percent of our newly reported COVID-19 cases. You get more coverage with this booster,” Boss said.
People should wait at least two months after completing their initial vaccination or their last booster shot before getting the bivalent booster. Eligibility for these new boosters depends on the person’s age.
“It doesn’t need to be from the same manufacturer that you received for your primary vaccine. You can get either Moderna or Pfizer,” Boss said.
At this time, the bivalent vaccine is considered only a booster. It is not to be used as the initial two-dose COVID vaccine. The monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines will still be administered for the primary series of vaccine and as a booster for children under the age of 12.
The Dade County Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 immunizations and boosters on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No appointment is needed, walk-ins are welcomed.
In addition to vaccination and boosters, basic prevention measures should also be followed to help prevent further spread of COVID and mitigate outbreaks of infection, especially in public settings: wear a mask, physically distance, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
“Dade still has some of our lowest rates in the state for COVID-19 immunizations. For comparison, people having had at least one dose state-wide in Georgia is at 65 percent, and Dade is only at 38 percent,” Boss said.
The amount of people fully vaccinated (either the two-dose series of Moderna or Pfizer, or the one Johnson and Johnson dose) in the state of Georgia is 57 percent, and that number for Dade County is 34 percent. The amount of people that have received one booster is both the same for statewide and Dade County, 44 percent. 15 percent of Dade County residents have received two boosters.
“We still encourage people to get immunized. CDC is still recommending that everyone stays up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations including those primary series, and boosters. We still recommend that ages 6 months through 4 years should get all the primary series of doses and everyone ages 5 and older should get the primary series and the new boosters if they are eligible,” Boss said.
According to Boss, COVID-19 numbers are down in the state at about 3,000 cases a week. Hospitalizations and deaths are also down, both in the state and in northwest Georgia.
“We are still seeing some people in ICUs, and almost 100 percent of those are people who are not vaccinated. The main message we want people to know is that even if you have COVID-19, getting a vaccine after you recover gives you added protection. We now know you can have breakthrough cases, but the vaccines do significantly lower your risk of serious illness,” Boss said.
Boss also noted that flu season has arrived, and cases have been seen in northwest Georgia.
“We measure flu on a weekly scale from 1-13, 13 being the worst, and we are at about 7-8 right now. Flu shots are readily available in our communities, and we encourage everyone to get a flu shot,” Boss said.
For more information on vaccination and boosters, visit https://itsthatsimplega.ga.gov/. The number of cases can be found at dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report. The number of immunizations can be found at dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine by clicking on “Interactive Dashboard.”