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.
COVID-19 vaccines are now available to children 6 months to 18 years, as well as adults of all ages. Call the Malheur County Health Department if you have questions regarding the vaccine, or your eligibility for booster doses, at 541-889-7279, or come in Wednesdays through July 30 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vaccine side effects, such as headaches, fevers and chills, are a sign our immune system is building protection against the virus we are being vaccinated against.
When we receive an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer), the vaccine tells our cells to build copies of the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s impossible for these spike protein copies to infect us with COVID-19. But our body sees a protein it doesn’t recognize and launches an immune response to build antibodies. Even if those antibodies do not prevent infection, they, along with memory –B and –T cells, can respond immediately and reduce the length and severity of illness. People who are not vaccinated were 17 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in March than those who received a primary vaccine series plus a booster dose.
Severe adverse events from vaccination are rare.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that may occur within minutes after receiving any vaccination. For COVID-19 vaccinations, it has occurred at a rate of about five cases per 1 million vaccinations.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. These reactions are rare and happen most often in teenagers or young adult males, usually within one week of receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer or Moderna). CDC data show myocarditis occurs less often after a booster dose than the second dose in a primary vaccine series. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart. Most patients respond well to treatment of their symptoms and feel better within a few days.
The most common reason people have not received a COVID-19 booster dose is concern about side effects, according to a recent survey of Oregon Health Authority blog readers. With eight reasons to choose from, 37% chose “I had side effects and I don’t want to go through that again.”
Some people worry the vaccine will cause them to miss a day of work or they don’t want to endure a fever or chills.
“My reaction to the second COVID-19 shot was not fun,” wrote one reader.
These types of side effects are common and indicate your body is building an immune response.
Other readers are concerned about more severe side effects, which are rare.
“The vaccine is quite safe and highly effective at reducing severe illness and death,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at Oregon Health Authority (OHA). “One is definitely better off with it than without it. I got my vaccine and boosters, and I made sure that my family got vaccinated.”
The United States recently surpassed the grim milestone of 1 million COVID-19-related deaths. Recent CDC data show people who weren’t vaccinated were 17 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who received a primary vaccine series plus a booster dose.
Why does the vaccine cause side effects?
When we receive an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer), it tells our cells to build copies of the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s impossible for these spike protein copies to infect us with COVID-19. But our body sees a protein it doesn’t recognize and launches an immune response to build antibodies. That immune response comes with the common side effects many feel from the vaccine, and those side effects should go away within a few days.
“Reactions to the vaccine vary quite a bit from one person to another,” Cieslak said. “But regardless, we know that about 95% of people build an immune response to it.”
If you experience these symptoms, you can take over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with discomfort. It is not recommended to take these medications before vaccination; take them only if you need them.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that may occur within minutes after receiving any vaccination. For COVID-19 vaccinations, it has occurred at a rate of about five cases per 1 million vaccinations. Health care providers can effectively treat the reaction immediately, and this is why COVID-19 vaccination clinic workers ask people to wait at least 15 minutes before leaving. For more information on allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, including anaphylaxis, visit here.
Myocarditisis inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. These reactions are rare and happen most often in teenage or young adult males, usually within one week of receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (*Pfizer or Moderna). Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart. Most patients respond well to treatment of their symptoms and feel better within a few days.
Myocarditis and pericarditis occur more often after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine primary series. To reduce the risk of heart complications, males ages 12-39 may consider waiting eight weeks after receiving their first dose to get their second dose.
As for booster doses, one reader from the survey expressed concern that “booster shots have a higher risk of complications like myocarditis. It seems that COVID is becoming less severe with the new Omicron variants, so I believe the booster shot is of higher risk to me at this time than becoming infected with COVID.”
Additionally, data from 40 health care systems found that the risk of cardiac complications was significantly higher after SARS-CoV-2 infection than after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination for both males and females in all age groups, according to the CDC.
Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) is a rare but serious adverse event that can result from receiving a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccination. TTS causes blood clots in large blood vessels and low platelets (blood cells that help form clots). It has occurred in approximately four cases per 1 million J&J doses administered.
As of May 31, 2022, 586 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States. Nearly 19 million of those were J&J. The CDC has identified nine deaths that may have been caused by the J&J vaccine. In most cases, mRNA vaccines are preferred to the J&J vaccine.
“Any vaccine or other medication has side effects, and COVID-19 vaccines are no exception,” Cieslak said “But serious side effects are rare, and life-threatening COVID-19 has been all too common. That’s why we recommend vaccination.”
Vaccines are available every Wednesday in June at the Malheur County Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St., Ontario, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. They will also be available from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22 at the Vale Senior Citizen Center, 100 Longfellow St. S., in Vale. Call 541-889-7279 for more information.
Children age 5-11 are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster, which will be available Wednesday during the Malheur County Health Department’s Walk-in Wednesday clinic, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.
Children ages 5-11 who are not immunocompromised should get a booster dose at least five months after receiving the second dose in their primary vaccine series.
Children ages 5-11 who are immunocompromised and have received their third primary series dose, should get a booster dose at least three months after receiving the third dose in their primary vaccine series.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, 401 children age 5-11 in Malheur County have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, of 2,875 children of that age living in the county.
“Boosters are especially likely to benefit children who are at high risk for severe disease,” said Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA. “Boosters may also prevent children from spreading the virus to loved ones who are at high risk.”
Since the start of the pandemic, 15,000 children ages 5 through 11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 180 have died. Booster doses restore the immune system and extend protection from COVID-19 infection and severe illness.
“With more than 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky.
COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe and effective for children
The effectiveness of the two-dose series in preventing infection from the Omicron variant wanes over a few months. Boosters were shown to increase antibodies against Omicron in children 5-11 years of age to 36 times the level they had after the second dose.
“Most important, though, is to get that primary series into kids who haven’t had it yet,” said Cieslak.
Vaccination is the best way to protect children from severe illness and the long-term effects of COVID-19 that are still not fully understood.
If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines or boosters for children ages 5 through 11, please submit them here. The OHA is unable to answer every question, but will try to answer those that will inform a wide audience. Additionally, the FDA is expected to meet next month to review requests from Moderna and Pfizer to authorize their COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. Feel free to submit questions about that as well.
We’re closely monitoring BA.4 and BA.5, the Omicron subvariants of the virus that causes #COVID19. Here’s what we know.
Layering COVID-19 protections, such as staying up to date with vaccines and boosters and wearing a mask around people who are not in your household, is the best way to increase your protection level and reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 illness.