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County Urges Boosters as COVID Wanes

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By Jorge Casuso

February 3, 2023 -- LA County Health officials are urging more than 4 million residents to get the latest booster shot regardless of their health condition amid a drop in COVID hospitalizations and deaths.

The recommendation comes as the County entered its third straight week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Low COVID-19 Community Level, with cases holding steady or waning, including in Santa Monica.

It also comes as the U.K. joins other European nations on February 12 that have tailored bivalent COVID booster shots to those under 50 only if thet are at high risk of severe illness (For more information visit GOV.UK).

By contrast, County officials have continued pushing the boosters for all adults and children 6 months and older, regardless of heath conditions.

"Public Health urges everyone who has not yet received the bivalent booster to get it as soon as possible," Health officials said Thursday.

According to County data, only 22 percent of the 5.5 million eligible people over the age of 12 have received the bivalent booster.

"Local data provides powerful evidence of the very real protection offered by the bivalent booster even against the newer variants circulating now, including XBB.1.5," officials said.

The evidence -- which shows vaccinated individuals who did not get a booster shot were twice as likely to die or be hospitalized -- does not mention health condition as a factor.

Two major recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the boosters added no protection against the new variants ("Bivalent COVID Boosters Offer No Extra Protection, Studies Suggest”).

Meanwhile, some experts are hesitant to recommend bivalent boosters for those between the ages of 18 and 35 because, as with the original vaccine, they slightly increase the risk of myocarditis, which inflames the heart muscle.

This week, LA County’s Low Community Level included a 7-day case rate of 69 new cases per 100,000 people, "a nominal increase from the 65 new cases per 100,000 people a week prior."

The 7-day total for new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people is currently 7.0, "a small decline from 7.2 last week."

Meanwhile, the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients dropped from a 7-day average of 4.6 percent to 4.0 percent this week.

In Santa Monica, the number of coronavirus cases dropped, averaging fewer than 50 cases over the past three weeks. One virus-related death was reported over the past two weeks.

There have been a total of 23,888 COVID cases and 291 virus-related deaths reported in the city of some 93,000 since the first case was reported on March 16, 2020.

Last month, the City announced it will end its health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on February 28, nearly three years after it was declared ("Santa Monica To End COVID Emergency," January 11, 2023).

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