A new COVID-19 vaccine approved Monday by the Food and Drug Administration should be available “soon” at pharmacies, primary care providers and San Juan Basin Public Health locations in Archuleta and La Plata counties, according to the health department.
The health department could not give a specific date for when the vaccine will become available locally, but it hopes to receive doses within a couple weeks.
The new vaccine is formulated to target circulating variants, along with the variant that health officials suspect will be most prevalent this winter, according to the FDA.
Monitoring shows an uptick in COVID transmission in Archuleta and La Plata counties, according to the San Juan Basin Health Department. However, hospitalizations are considered “low,” with 13 hospitalizations for the week of Sept. 2. Still, that is an 18% increase from the previous week in Archuleta and La Plata counties.
“SJBPH has also received reports of COVID-19 transmission in schools and childcare facilities,” the health department wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.
Currently, many subvariants of the Omicron variant are spreading across the United States, including Colorado. The subvariant most prevalent is EG. 5, which has also been detected in Durango and Pagosa Springs, according to the health department.
The new booster shot was developed based on another subvariant similar to EG. 5 and is expected to provide better protection against EG. 5 than last year’s COVID vaccine, according to the health department.
A new subvariant, BA. 2.86, is also circulating in the U.S. but has not yet been detected in Archuleta or La Plata counties, according to SJBPH.
It is believed the updated vaccine will be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalizations, even for variants it doesn’t directly target.
The new vaccine will be free for most Americans, according to SJBPH. For those with health insurance, most plans cover the vaccine at no cost. People without insurance or health plans that don’t cover the vaccine can receive it from SJBPH or a pharmacy participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bridge Access Program.
COVID rapid test kits and masks are still being made available for free at SJBPH offices in Durango and Pagosa Springs.
Transmission levels can be unpredictable, but the health department expects an increase in respiratory viruses, including COVID, RSV and flu, in the fall and winter months as more people co-mingle in doors.
“Because of this, this is a good time for residents to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccine to protect themselves, friends and family,” said Janet Wolf, spokeswoman for the health department, in her email to the Herald. “Getting vaccinated will prevent you from missing days of work, school and child care.”
The health department encouraged residents to receive the updated booster shot.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work well to protect you from COVID-19,” Wolf said in her email. “... Millions of people in Colorado and across the United States have safely received a COVID-19 vaccine. Getting a vaccine is the best and safest way to protect yourself from COVID-19.”
SJBPH also recommends people wear masks when the risk level is “medium” or “high,” or when hospital admission levels are high. Also, households that have in-person contact with individuals at high risk for becoming very sick should consider wearing masks when indoors with them.
As of this week, the risk level in Archuleta and La Plata counties was considered “low.”