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New Covid-19 boosters coming to a site near you

caption: Vials of the reformulated Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster move through production at a plant in Kalamazoo, Mich.
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Vials of the reformulated Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster move through production at a plant in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Pfizer Inc.

Doses of the new omicron-specific Covid-19 boosters should become available at pharmacies and health-care sites around King County starting this week.

Roughly 92,000 doses of the updated shots will be arriving in the county this week and next, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Statewide, an initial allocation of 191,100 doses is expected, according to the state Department of Health.

The new boosters are designed to give improved protection against the omicron subvariants circulating today, as well as the original strain.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health – Seattle & King County, gave an update on Covid-19 and the new boosters Tuesday.

Who is eligible for the boosters?

Everyone 12 years of age and older is eligible for the updated booster shots as long as they have finished their primary vaccine series and their last dose, or most recent booster, was received at least two months ago.

These shots are only intended as boosters and can’t be received as a first or second dose for people who have not yet completed their primary vaccine series.

Public health officials are urging anyone who is eligible for the boosters to get them in order to have the best protection against severe illness and death.

Those who are most at risk from the virus, including older adults, should get the new shots as soon as they can, Duchin said.

Why are the boosters needed?

Since the original Covid-19 vaccines were approved, the virus has evolved.

“It’s evolved new variants that can dodge some of the immunity we get from both past infections as well as our vaccination,” Duchin said.

The updated boosters are designed to give improved protection against severe illness from these newer Covid-19 variants – the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 lineages that are widely circulating in Washington state – as well as targeting the initial strain.

“Even if you’ve had a booster in the past, all recommended booster doses are important for maximum protection,” Duchin said.

Duchin said the updated boosters are an important step in improving the community’s ability to limit the ongoing toll from the virus.

“It is clear that Covid-19 is not disappearing,” Duchin said. “It is changing, it appears less severe in important ways, but it’s persistent, it’s insidious, and it remains somewhat unpredictable.”

The hope is that uptake of these new shots could help blunt an anticipated fall and winter surge of Covid-19 cases.

Is there any reason to wait to get a booster?

For those who have recently been infected with Covid-19, Duchin recommends waiting about three months before seeking out the omicron-specific booster.

Duchin said vaccinating too soon after an infection means you may not get the full benefit from the dose.

However, Duchin said it’s not a good idea to try to time your booster dose for when the next surge comes.

“That’s unpredictable,” Duchin said. “Nobody can really predict with certainty when they’ll be exposed to Covid.”

If you have questions about your personal situation and timing for a dose, discuss it with your health-care provider.

Where can I get a booster?

Booster doses will be available at health-care sites and pharmacies around the county.

Initial availability may vary at sites as providers wait for shipments.

King County’s vaccination site at the Auburn Outlet Collection mall is expected to have doses available starting on Friday, Sept. 9, although that could change if there are shipping delays. Walk-ins are welcome.

You can find a vaccine using the King County website.

You can also use the state’s vaccine locator website. Language assistance is available via the state’s Covid information hotline, 800-525-0127.

Are there enough doses available for everyone who wants one?

Public health officials say they expect a good supply of vaccines.

As with other vaccine rollouts during the pandemic, people may need to be patient, especially in the initial days.

However, Duchin said the county expects a robust supply in the coming weeks.

Booster uptake has lagged in King County with only 44 percent of eligible people up to date with all recommended boosters, according to the county’s dashboard.

Gaps are particularly apparent in some communities, including the Black and Latino communities.

What are the current Covid-19 trends in King County?

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been trending downward in King County in recent weeks.

While there’s still a substantial level of transmission in the community, it’s lower than the levels seen earlier in the summer.

Duchin said although things are trending down there are still likely a few thousand new Covid-19 cases occurring in King County each day.

And while Covid-19 deaths are down to an average of about two per day in the county, Duchin said if that level were sustained it would make Covid the fifth leading cause of death each year in the county, more than stroke, diabetes or flu.

The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths in the past 30 days have occurred in people over 50 years of age, according to Duchin.

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