Should I get the Omicron booster now or wait a few weeks?


New Omicron-targeted COVID-19 boosters are now available, but many are wondering: should they get the shots immediately or wait to time them closer to the holidays?

The short answer is that it depends on both who you ask and what factors can increase your chance of serious health effects. For those at lower risk of exposure or developing serious disease, some experts say waiting may be beneficial. But others say it’s best not to delay, especially with the potential for another coronavirus rebound this fall and winter.

“We do hear of people saying, ‘You know, I want to maximize my protection for the late fall and winter holidays in particular. And maybe I’ll wait.’ For people who are relatively healthy and younger, that may be an appropriate assessment,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in Los Angeles County.

But she urged residents at higher risk for severe COVID-19 to get the new booster right away.

“Older people are still at high risk,” she said. “I wouldn’t put it off for high-risk people.”

dr. Robert Wachter, chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, said getting the new booster “once I qualify, seems like a pretty easy decision to me.”

“While some choose to wait for things to kick in later in the fall, ‘timing the market’ usually doesn’t work,” he said. tweeted.

Whenever you roll up your sleeve, it’s important to note that it takes two weeks to get the full effect of the booster.

According to UC San Francisco infectious disease expert, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, the maximum effectiveness of the Omicron booster will probably be in the four or five months after the injection, with the maximum one month after the injection.

During the first fall-and-winter wave of the pandemic, coronavirus cases in California began to increase in November and accelerate sharply in December. Cases started to rise in December last year.

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Ferrer urged eligible people to get the updated booster before the upcoming holiday season, expressing hope that widespread uptake of the injection will lessen the severity of an expected COVID surge at the end of the year.

“As we get deeper into the fall, we’re going to encourage everyone who is eligible to get their bivalent booster before the fall break starts to do so,” Ferrer said. “We have survived two significant winter peaks of this virus, but both have left a devastating impact on our community.” Ferrer noted that the first COVID spike happened before vaccines were widely available, while the second happened when vaccines didn’t fully match the coronavirus variant circulating.

“We hope that with this new bivalent vaccine, we can reduce our chances of a third massive winter wave of COVID, as we have a pretty good match to what’s circulating,” Ferrer said.

In addition to individual risk factors, a person’s plans can also play a role in booster timing. If someone is about to travel abroad or attend a major event with an increased risk of exposure, a boost at least two weeks in advance can help reduce the chance of infection.

The question of how best to time a vaccine is not unique to COVID-19. Take the flu shot, for example.

Getting the annual shot too early may reduce maximum effectiveness before the end of the flu season. If you get it too late, you risk being exposed without any protection.

In the context of flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “vaccination should ideally be offered in September or October.” Some have suggested that an ideal time to get the flu shot is mid to late October.

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Officials have pointed out that the decision to make the updated COVID-19 booster available in September is expected to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. Modeling studies indicate that distributing boosters starting this month could prevent 137,000 more hospitalizations and 9,700 more deaths compared to starting a booster campaign in November.

Another wrinkle to consider is when a person was last infected with the coronavirus. The CDC suggests waiting three months after a positive test or the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, whichever came first, before getting the updated booster. But the agency also said other factors could alter that timing, such as the level of COVID-19 in the community and the person’s risk factors for serious illness.

One of the few hard and fast rules when it comes to timing is that a person must be at least two months away from their last vaccination or booster dose before getting the updated booster.

But even then, some experts suggest that people should wait longer — at least three months — before getting the new booster, as it could provide better longer-term protection.

Most people 50 and older who got their second booster shot did so pretty soon after federal authorities gave the green light in late March. According to data recently presented by the CDC, many received the additional injection in April and May.

And for most people ages 5 to 49, it’s been “six months or more since their last COVID-19 vaccine” or booster, the CDC said in a slide presentation earlier this month.

The updated booster from Pfizer and BioNTech is available for individuals ages 12 and older, while Moderna’s offering is only an option for adults ages 18 and older. Children aged 5 to 11 are eligible for a conventional booster shot.

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Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have said they will administer the new Omicron booster.

But it will take some time before other providers are running at full capacity. For the past few days, Kaiser’s system in Northern California has offered limited appointments for COVID-19 booster shots before the end of September, but appointments were not available in many locations. Kaiser’s Southern California system said it expects the updated booster to be available at some level next week, but supply may be limited to begin with.

On Monday morning, the MyTurn COVID-19 vaccination planning website in California said it was still not ready to offer booster appointments. They will be offered soon, the site said.

Officials say it’s safe to get the COVID-19 booster and flu shot at the same time, preferably in separate arms.

However, in an advisory, LA County health officials said some people — particularly adolescent or young adult males — may want to consider waiting four weeks after getting the Jynneos vaccine, used to protect against MPX, before getting a Pfizer. , Moderna or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.

But recently, getting a Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine needn’t require a delay in getting the Jynneos vaccine if it’s recommended to prevent developing MPX disease in the context of an outbreak, it said. the consultancy.

California health officials recently began using the name MPX — pronounced mpox — in place of monkeypox due to widespread concerns that the older name is stigmatizing and racist. The World Health Organization is in the process of formally renaming the disease, which will take several months.