COVID-19 booster vaccines that target Omicron variants are available from Santa Barbara County providers and approved for older children and adults, Deputy Public Health Director Paige Batson said Tuesday.
“Essentially, if you are 12 years of age and over, you can get the bivalent vaccine, and the only requirement is you wait two months after your last vaccine dose,” she told the county Board of Supervisors.
Federal and state regulators authorized Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna bivalent vaccines, which were developed to protect against the original novel coronavirus and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.
Santa Barbara County has received about 9,000 doses of the bivalent booster doses, and they are available from pharmacies, healthcare centers, hospital vaccination clinics, and other providers, Batson said.
Public Health is not anticipating any shortages in the bivalent booster doses, she said.
The state is delaying additional deliveries of the Moderna bivalent booster, however, so county providers have been encouraged to use the Pfizer doses, according to Batson.
People can mix and match booster shot manufacturers with their primary vaccine series manufacturer – for example, someone who received Moderna vaccines and a Moderna booster can receive a Pfizer bivalent booster, and vice versa, the Public Health Department says.
The monovalent vaccines are no longer authorized for booster doses, she noted, except in the case of younger children: 5-11-year-olds are recommended to receive the Pfizer pediatric monovalent booster dose.
Batson also said the county is seeing little demand for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed using protein-based technology (like hepatitis and shingles vaccines) rather than the mRNA technology used to develop the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The county has about 400 doses available by request and demand has been “relatively low,” she said.
“We really anticipated we were going to see a huge uptick on this,” since some people expressed concerns about the relatively new mRNA technology, Batson said. “We have not seen that.”
Public health departments across California are seeing low uptake on the Novavax vaccines, she said, and they’re not really sure why.
Santa Barbara County has a 69.2% COVID-19 vaccination rate, and while the numbers are increasing slowly, they are still rising.
About 670 people became fully vaccinated in the past month.
In the month ending Sept. 9, county providers administered about 5,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including about 1,380 booster shots.
The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to consider the state of emergency related to COVID-19 and continue holding remote hearings. Even though the supervisors and county staff meet in person, the move ensures members of the public can participate remotely via Zoom.
The county Planning Commission only recently started holding meetings in person again, after more than two years of virtual-only meetings.
Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson voted against the item. He said he wants to continue the remote hearing and public participation rules, but can’t support using the COVID-19 state of emergency as justification for that.
First District Supervisor Das Williams said there’s “still a lot of lost productivity and a lot of infection” due to the pandemic, and if meeting remotely can help address that, it’s a reason to support the policy.