The bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration has come to Montgomery County. The county currently has about 1,100 doses of the bivalent booster vaccine, and officials are encouraging residents to make an appointment in advance if they want the vaccine.
“The bivalent booster includes protection not only against the ancestral version of COVID, the original version of COVID, but against the Omicron variants, particularly BA.4 and B.A5 were incorporated into this booster. It offers a broader range of protections,” Sean O’Donnell, the county’s public health emergency preparedness manager, said during a media briefing Wednesday.
Last week, the FDA amended the emergency use authorizations of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to authorize bivalent formulations of the vaccines for use as a single booster dose at least two months following primary or booster vaccination.
The Moderna booster is authorized for ages 18 and up and the Pfizer booster is authorized for ages 12 and up.
The bivalent vaccines, which contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
“[The FDA is] recommending that these are the best protections against COVID,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said most current COVID-19 cases are considered to be the BA.4 or BA.5 variant, but case numbers overall are falling.
“We’re really seeing a lot fewer cases … our hospital rates have come down, we’ve seen mostly a decrease in the ICU numbers. We’re still monitoring these of course, but we’re seeing less, less severe illness as well as fewer cases,” O’Donnell said.
About 90% of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated. County data as of Aug. 20 showed that about two out of every 100,000 residents who died from COVID-19 were unvaccinated, while there were no deaths out of 100,000 residents among those that were fully vaccinated or boosted.
O’Donnell said the county is requesting thousands more doses of the booster vaccine.
The vaccine will be available through local pharmacies, primary and urgent care centers, and Department of Health and Human Services and partner clinics. More information is available and appointments can be made by visiting coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine.