WASHINGTON, DC — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the new COVID bivalent booster (protecting against both the original COVID-19 virus and Omicron BA.4 / BA.5) for children 5 and up, though only 46 percent of Rhode Island children 5-9 have completed their first full vaccination.
The booster shots are recommended at the same time people get their annual fall flu vaccination, to guard against a spike in COVID-19 spread with more indoor activity during the fall.
“This fall, everyone should get a bivalent COVID-19 booster. And, really, that’s all you need to know: Get a vaccine. Any bivalent vaccine. This fall,” said Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, epidemiologist and biostatistician and author of the Your Local Epidemiologist blog.
Jetelina also advised getting the flu shot while you’re there.
“It’s recommended to administer in different arms,” she said, adding, “There have been studies on the safety and effectiveness of the co-administration of these two vaccines. In one database, about 454,000 people got the flu and COVID-19 vaccines during the 2021-2022 flu season. Both vaccines worked great if they are co-administered. Generally, the rate of side effects was the same or a little higher; however, no specific safety concerns were identified.”
The advice comes as many young people in the state remain unprotected against COVID-19, according to data from the RI Department of Health.
While 46 percent of children 5-9 have completed their full COVID-19 vaccination, only 6 percent in that age group have received any booster dose of the vaccine (a booster dose for the original vaccine was available prior to the new bivalent one developed in late summer). COVID-19 vaccinations have been approved for children six months to 5 years old since June, and have been available to children five years and older since November 2021.
COVID-19 BA.4 / BA.5: What should I do?
Jetelina noted the following precautions to avoid spreading the new variants and endangering friends and family:
- Get vaccinated, or get your booster shots BA.4 and BA.5 may not be more deadly, but vulnerable people around you are still at some risk of serious illness and death if they become infected with the subvariants. In Rhode Island, most counties are at low risk of infection, but also low rates of vaccination among young people.
- Over 50? Get your booster “If you don’t have your first booster, it’s beyond time. If you don’t have your second booster, get one now. Seriously. Schedule your appointment here. Do not delay. In the U.S., adults aged 50 and older with two booster doses had 4 times lower risk of dying from COVID-19, compared to people who received one booster dose,” Jetelina wrote.
- High risk and COVID-19 positive? Get Paxlovid The oral anti-viral is safe and effective against severe disease. “You need to start the course within 5 days of symptoms or it won’t work well. You can get a prescription from your clinician. The FDA also recently authorized getting a prescription directly from a pharmacist. Here are some test to treat location options,” according to Jetelina.
- Don’t use the CDC Community Levels map to decide when to use a mask “This does not tell us when to wear a mask for individual protection. The old CDC transmission map is painted red (which doesn’t even take into account under-reporting) and shows 98% of Americans should wear a mask in crowded, indoor spaces if they don’t want to get sick. Transmission is high across the states and will get higher,” according to Jetelina.
- Wear a mask, get fresh air “Ventilation and filtration really matter and are powerful tools. This is especially important in the middle of a heat wave while people head indoors. The short video below gives a very clear depiction of how COVID19 spreads through the air. Think of SARS-CoV-2 as being like smoke. It can spread even if you’re just whispering and can linger for hours, even once someone has left the room. Get that air moving. You can use a CO2 monitor to know your ventilation, if that’s helpful,” Jetelina wrote.
Use antigen tests to avoid exposing others to the virus “If you use antigen tests before seeing someone vulnerable,keep the following in mind:
- If you have the virus and are asymptomatic, you can expect the average antigen test to catch 44% to 70% of cases. This is good but not perfect.
- Be sure to conduct cadence testing: test 48 hours before the event and again the morning of. If they are both negative, I would feel comfortable proceeding.” Jetelina said.
This is a test