COVID-19 boosters targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 strains are now available across the Central Coast, but supply is limited.
If you try to schedule a COVID-19 booster with CVS for example, the following message will pop up:
“If you're age 12 or up and scheduling a COVID-19 booster today, you'll receive the bivalent booster.”
That is because these new boosters are replacing previous ones.
“A variant of the original Wuhan COVID that we saw when it first came out along with the latest omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5, so it’s a combination that’s why they call it bivalent,” explained Dr. Thomas Vendegna, French Hospital Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer.
Who can get one of these boosters?
“The booster is for anyone who’s been at least two months since their last booster. and it’s for ages 12 and over for the Pfizer dose and 18 and up for Moderna,” said San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
There is another condition.
“If you’ve gotten your primary series, which would be two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna doses,” added Dr. Borenstein.
That would also apply if you got a one-shot Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
You can expect similar symptoms to the previous boosters.
“Very short-lived like a headache, feeling a little achy or even a fever, some people respond with a fever, it is not a sign that somebody gets sick, it is a sign that the immune system is responding to the vaccine,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer.
Many are wondering where you can get one.
“Boosters in some clinics have actually arrived, I know the county clinic in Santa Maria and in Santa Barbara have the boosters,” said Dr. Ansorg. “Other pharmacies and other providers in the county have either received them today or they will receive them later this week.”
Select pharmacies do have them in stock.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health is expecting vaccines to arrive in the next couple of weeks.
“The government’s distribution of the updated boosters is underway and individual CVS pharmacy locations are receiving the bivalent COVID-19 boosters on a rolling basis over the next few days and weeks,” said Tara Burke, a media representative for CVS.
“Rite aid stores are expecting delivery this week for either Pfizer or Moderna updated boosters based on our initial allocation from the CDC,” said Catherine Carter, Rite Aid’s Public Relations & External Communications manager.
Health experts say this is a way of staying up to date with the dominant variant.
“90% of the variants in SLO county is the BA.5 variant,” said Dr. Vendegna. “It’s going to be really effective at preventing what is circulating right now; even if cases are going down, when the holidays come this might be the variant going around.”
Helpful ahead of the holidays and even better if you add a flu vaccine.
“The earlier you can get it the better, flu vaccine is available now,” recommended Dr. Borenstein.
Another option to schedule a booster appointment is through www.myturn.ca.gov
However, the website is going through an update to better reflect the number of vaccines available locally.
Public health experts recommend getting the flu vaccine and booster a couple of weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday. It can be at the same time or weeks apart.
To schedule a vaccine through CVS, click here.
To schedule a vaccine through Rite Aid, click here.