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caption: Doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are drawn out during a vaccine clinic set up by the Othello Station Pharmacy and the Somali Health Board to vaccinate roughly 100 seniors in the community on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at The Brighton Apartments, a complex for seniors, on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle.
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Doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are drawn out during a vaccine clinic set up by the Othello Station Pharmacy and the Somali Health Board to vaccinate roughly 100 seniors in the community on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at The Brighton Apartments, a complex for seniors, on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington state plans for rollout of new Covid-19 booster

Washington state is planning for the rollout of a new Covid-19 booster this fall.

Drugmakers have asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize bivalent shots that target the omicron subvariants, which are dominant in Washington and across the country.

Federal approval is expected in the coming weeks, according to Lacy Fehrenbach, chief of prevention, safety, and health with the state Department of Health.

Fehrenbach said supply will be limited when the new boosters first become available.

"For those of you who are not at risk for severe Covid disease, please plan to be patient in the first few weeks, couple of months, so those at greatest risk can get that vaccine first," she said during a media briefing Thursday.

Fehrenbach said the state has already ordered 191,900 boosters that will be pre-positioned around Washington in anticipation of approval.

The doses are expected to arrive shortly after Labor Day.

Calling a booster "bivalent" means it targets the original Covid strains and also protects against the omicron subvariants.

Health experts say those who are eligible for the current booster shots, and have not yet had them, should get those shots now, instead of waiting for the new one to be approved.

“There should be no interference from the original booster – as in, if you get the original booster, you should still get a good immune response to the omicron component of the bivalent vaccine,” Dr. Helen Chu said via email. Chu is an infectious disease physician with UW Medicine.

Chu said people should get their boosters now and also get the new bivalent booster when it is available.

Children between the ages of 5 and 11 are eligible for the current boosters but will not be eligible for the new boosters that target the omicron subvariants, at least initially.

Health officials in Washington state are cautiously optimistic about Covid-19 trends at the moment. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been trending downwards.

However, community transmission remains relatively high and there’s concern that cases may tick up again as the weather cools down and people spend more time indoors this fall.

The dominant omicron subvariant, BA.5, is highly transmissible and even a prior infection doesn’t protect someone from getting infected again. Reinfection sometimes occurs in a matter of weeks.

As the start of school approaches and the Labor Day holiday nears, officials stress that prevention measures – including vaccines, masking, and the use of rapid tests – remain critical.