New COVID-19 vaccine may help prevent contracting the virus

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 7:54 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Food and Drug Administration has given its blessing to a new booster shot specifically targeting the BA-4 and BA-5 COVID variants which are the dominate strains in the United States and Arizona right now.

The new booster by Pfizer and Moderna are welcomed because they are different from the vaccines before which were more scattershot and worked to reduce the severity of the illness but generally lacked the ability to prevent people from getting it in the first place.

“There’s no absolutes, there’s no shot that would prevent 100% of the time from getting covid,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, a professor of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona. “But it’s not only about that, it’s reducing the chances.”

The new vaccine is likely to be approved by the Centers for Disease control in the next few days. Pima County Health says it won’t comment until approval but says it has ordered the vaccine and it will be available at the county clinics next week.

“This new bivariant vaccine will be better at preventing an infection in the first place because it’s going to produce antibodies that are targeting the version of the virus that has been circulating over the summer in Arizona,” said Will Humble, the Executive Director at the Arizona Public Health Association.

The vaccine will help the health community get out ahead of the virus which is in a lull in Arizona right now. Case numbers have dropped dramatically in recent weeks but Humble says it’s not the case numbers which give him reason for optimism that we’re in a good spot right now.

“I don’t look at case numbers,” Humble said. I look at hospitalizations, both ICU and general work floor, and what you see now in Arizona is they are dropping really fast and have been over the past few weeks.”

But he doesn’t expect that to last which is why he believes having a targeted vaccine is important once the lull gives way to an increase in cases once the cooler weather sets in.

“I’m pretty convinced this Fall we’re going to see low levels of covid but once Thanksgiving hits again we’re going to start to see it go up,” he said. “And what it want to do is have this new vaccine on board.”

Pfizer and Moderna are expected to ramp up production in the coming days on the way to 170 million doses. There will likely be some shortages for a while until the vaccine is equally distributed so those who are most at risk should likely be first in line.

“Certainly people who have some degree of vulnerability,” Bhattacharya said. “If they’re immune compromised, if they’re elderly, if they’re not caught up with their shots and only had two a long time ago, those are the groups that certainly need it the most.”