Updated COVID-19 Boosters Approved

Updated COVID-19 boosters can both help restore protection that has decreased since previous vaccination, and provide broader protection against newer variants. The updated, or bivalent boosters, target the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that are more contagious and more resistant than earlier strains of Omicron. The new updated COVID-19 boosters can be administered in Oregon now that the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has recommended the vaccine, completing final step in the review and approval process following recommendations from the FDA and CDC.

The CDC is recommending updated COVID boosters, for people ages 12 and older. People are eligible if it’s been at least two months since they received their last COVID vaccine, either a booster or an initial dose.

The boosters can be administered regardless of which vaccine series a person received. Pfizer’s updated booster is available for anyone 12 and older. The Moderna booster is available for anyone 18 and older.

“If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in an interview with NPR.

The new boosters should be available in Malheur County this week. The Malheur County Health Department will have news out soon with increased availability for both boosters and first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Call our office at 541-889-7279, your local healthcare provider, or pharmacy, to check availability and make an appointment, if available. Find local vaccine providers here.

Malheur County still lags behind every other county except Lake in Oregon for protection against COVID-19 and continues to be the only county in the High Community Level of risk due to recent outbreaks. The best way to prevent serious COVID-19 illness is to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

MCHD at the Malheur County Fair

The 2022 Malheur County Fair is happening this week, August 2nd through 6th, with the theme of “Just for the Fun of It!” We are proud to be part of one of the county’s best family-friendly events. Come visit our booth in the Commercial Building all week and be sure to stop by on Friday and Saturday for the special COVID-19 vaccine booth near ours. Vaccines available 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. for ages 6 months and older. $25 gift cards for every dose received. Download the flyer here.

Treatments are available for COVID-19

Though ivermectin helps to treat certain infections caused by parasites, there is no evidence that it helps treat COVID-19.

Several large studies, including this one published in The New England Journal of Medicine (http://ow.ly/phwP50JGgjq), found that ivermectin did not lower rates of hospital admission or provide other benefits in treatment of COVID-19.

Worse yet, ivermectin can make some people sick. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, hallucinations, confusion, loss of coordination and seizures. Some people have also gotten sick by swallowing ivermectin products intended for use on skin (e.g., lotions and creams) or for use in animals.

Long story short: if other medicines are proven to help fight COVID-19 infection, and ivermectin can make some people sick, why take the chance? If you think you have COVID-19, talk to your health care provider (or call 211 if you don’t have one).

To learn more about treatments authorized and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19, visit http://ow.ly/N0PB50JGgjo.

iHealth home test expiration dates extended (updated July 2022)

Reminder: Order free COVID-19 test kits through COVIDtests.gov only through Friday, September 2, 2022. More information here.

iHealth rapid-antigen home COVID-19 tests have had another three-month extension in their expiration dates granted by the Food and Drug Administration. This which extends the shelf-life of all iHealth tests from 6 months to 12 months. iHealth will continue to apply to FDA for shelf-life extensions every three months based on stability studies, and the new shelf-lives for home tests will apply to tests already produced as well as future production. See the FDA iHealth extension dates, as of July 8, 2022, here.

iHealth home tests were provided locally to non-profit organizations, churches and individuals by the Malheur County Health Department and Oregon Health Authority, and were also mailed to private residences by the federal government. If you have not received your tests from the federal government, you may request them here.

iHealth Rapid Antigen tests are authorized for non-prescription home use with self-collected anterior nasal swab samples from individuals age 15 or older who have symptoms of COVID-19 within the first seven days of symptom onset. People age 2-15 may use the test, if an adult collects the swab samples. Test results are available in 15 minutes.

Rapid antigen tests such as the iHealth test will not be accepted as proof of a negative COVID-19 test for travel.

Free webinars about COVID-19 treatments

Join a free community-focused COVID-19 webinar – offered in English and Spanish – to learn about COVID-19 treatments. Experts from Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Heath & Science University will discuss everything we know about available COVID-19 treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies and antiviral medication, who is eligible for these treatments and how to access them. 

Click the links below to join the live webinars: 

  • English – Thursday, June 23, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Mountain Time  
    Call in: +1-669-254-5252, Meeting ID: 161 027 9494, Passcode: 133296 
  • Spanish – Friday, June 24, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Mountain Time.
    Call in: +1-669-254-5252, Meeting ID: 161 843 3152, Passcode: 226211 

There will also be an opportunity to ask questions. An ASL interpreter will be present, and closed captioning will be provided. Both webinars will be recorded and posted to the OHA website here

Vaccine for small children now available at the Health Department

Both Moderna and Pfizer’s “Little Peds” vaccine, for children ages 6 months to 5 years, has arrived at the Malheur County Health Department, and will be available at two local clinics on Wednesday, June 22.

Walk-in Wednesday, the Health Department’s weekly walk-in vaccine clinic, opens at 9 a.m., closes for lunch, and reopens from 1-4:30 for people interested in being vaccinated. The clinic is located at 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario. For the first time, Walk-in Wednesday will feature the vaccine for the littlest children.

The Health Department will also offer COVID-19 vaccines for everyone age 6 months and older beginning at noon Wednesday at the Vale Senior Citizen Center, 100 S. Longfellow Ave., in Vale.

COVID-19 vaccines are free, and the Health Department will provide a $25 gift card to everyone who receives a vaccine, including infants and small children.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 2 million cases, 20,000 hospitalizations and 200 deaths in children under 5, due to COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Stanford Children’s Health. Vaccines continue to be effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, including in children without any underlying medical conditions. All of the effects of “long COVID” in children are not yet known, and vaccination helps prevent some of the known effects, including Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), and may potentially prevent post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (“long COVID) which has the potential to be very debilitating for young children. Vaccines can protect children, which can in turn reduce the risk of transmission to others.

For children 5-11 years old in the U.S., there has been only one vaccine option available. For children under 5, there are two. The three-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccine can be given to children 6 months to four years. It is three micrograms per dose. The second dose is given three to eight weeks after the first, and the third dose is given more than eight weeks after the second. The two-dose Moderna vaccine is recommended for children 6 months to 5 years old at a dose of 25 micrograms. The doses are given four to eight weeks apart. Children who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may need additional doses, similar to teens and adults.

The most common side effects parents can expect for their child are a sore arm, headache, fever, and fatigue. Children 6 months to 23 months may be fussy or more sleepy. Symptoms usually occur one to two days after vaccination and are mostly mild and resolve after a few days. parents should contact their primary care provider if they have any specific concerns about side effects from a shot.

Parents who prefer to have their child vaccinated by their own pediatrician are encouraged to call the pediatrician’s office to ensure the vaccine is available, and to schedule an appointment.

Young children now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Children age 6 months to 5 years may now receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon, after a flurry of weekend activity to approve Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine. While children could begin to receive the vaccine as early as today (Monday, June 20, 2022), most providers won’t have vaccine in their office, so please contact your provider before taking your child to get a vaccine. Some providers will receive vaccine shipments today, while others won’t have their shipments until later this week, or even after that.

Approval of the vaccine followed the usual protocol, with an FDA committee finding that the benefits of either the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series for infants age 6 months through 5 years, or the three-dose Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for infants and children 6 months through 4 years of age substantially outweigh any known or likely risks. Later, the full FDA endorsed the recommendation, and over the weekend, it was endorsed by the CDC, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, on which Oregon relies for such decisions.

Having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 will help keep them from becoming severely ill with the virus, and help keep them from spreading it to others.

Parents with questions are encouraged to talk to their child’s health care provider to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of keeping children up-to-date with all the recommended vaccinations.

Some tips for parents of young children being vaccinated are here.

What to do after a positive home test

If you feel at all sick, it’s important that you stay home, isolate away from others in your household and wear a mask in common areas. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, contact your primary care physician and ask about testing and possible treatments. If you receive a test that will take a few days before you find out results, isolate at home while you wait. For more information, call the COVID-19 Response Hotline at 866-917-8881. After you feel better, get vaccinated! Next Wednesday, there are two opportunities for vaccination from the Malheur County Health Department. Come to our office at 1108 SW 4th St., between 9 a.m. and noon, or 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., no appointment needed, and ask for your vaccine, or a booster. Or, from noon to 5 p.m., we’ll have a team in Vale at the Vale Senior Citizen Center, 100 Longfellow, ready to vaccinate you or a loved one.

Answering questions about vaccinating your children

As early as next week, parents and caregivers may be able to get their youngest children vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee met today, June 15, and recommended approval of emergency use for Moderna and Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna’s application is for vaccinating kids ages 6 months through 5 years, and Pfizer’s is for kids ages 6 months through 4 years.

“The vaccine is an important tool to protect them from the virus. It prevents kids from getting very sick and from spreading it others, both at home, in school and at day care,” said Dr. Kim Bonner, epidemic intelligence service officer for acute and communicable disease prevention with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read on for answers to common questions about vaccinating this age group.