Updated COVID-19 booster shots are beginning to become available in San Diego County, following the authorization of their use by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month.

Why this matters

COVID-19 cases are expected to surge again during the winter months, worrying experts about increases in severe public health outcomes as stalling vaccine uptake poses a risk for community protection due to the shot’s effectiveness decreasing over time.

The new bivalent booster shot has been in the works since the summer following a nationwide surge in cases caused by Omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, that prompted the FDA to advise vaccine manufacturers to reformulate the shot to strengthen protection against these strains.

“These new boosters are a welcome resource to our ongoing COVID-19 prevention efforts,” County public health officer Wilma Wooten said in a statement. “With this bivalent vaccine, we have an updated booster that more directly addresses the most common circulating variant, and a chance to better protect our community.”

With these updated vaccines becoming available, eligibility for the second booster dose has since been expanded by the CDC to include individuals, such as those under the age of 50 who do not have a pre-existing condition, that were unable to receive another dose under guidelines from earlier this year.

While at-risk groups remain a top priority, current recommendations suggest that any individuals who are fully vaccinated and received their last shot eight weeks ago or longer should get the bivalent booster. 

Those 12 and up are able to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech booster. The Moderna booster is available to those 18 and older. Neither booster has been authorized for children under the age of 12.

Health officials nationwide are strongly urging those who are eligible to seek out the new booster shot, as studies show the protection the vaccine provides wanes over time and a predicted winter surge might not be that far off.

“Winter is not that far away,” President Joe Biden said in a statement regarding the new boosters. “The past two years, we have seen COVID-19 cases and deaths soar. It does not have to be that way this year.”

The White House also said that the vaccine will continue to be updated as new variants emerge and individuals will be encouraged to get the shot once a year as they do for influenza.

Overall booster uptake in the county has slowed in recent months, with only 59 percent of 2,452,870 eligible San Diegans are reported as having received the first booster dose. Of the 720,111 individuals in the county who were eligible to obtain a second booster, only 39.9 percent got a dose.

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The county says that initial supply of the new bivalent vaccine is limited, but is expected to expand in the coming weeks.

Four county-operated locations will now be providing the vaccine on a first-come, first-serve appointment basis:

  • South Region Live Well Center at 690 Oxford St in Chula Vista will have 150 doses a day, operating during the hours of 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • East Public Health Center at 367 N. Magnolia Ave in El Cajon will have 60 doses a day, operating during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
  • Central Region Public Health Center at 5202 University Ave in San Diego will have 60 doses a day, operating during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
  • North Inland Public Health Center at 649 W. Mission Ave in Escondido will have 60 doses a day, operating from 9:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Appointments for these locations will be available via the state’s My Turn website soon, according to the county.

Major retail pharmacies, such as Rite Aid and CVS, will also have appointments for the bivalent booster, which can be scheduled using their respective websites.

Additional resources for locating a vaccination site can be found using this nationwide search engine or by visiting the county’s website.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Danielle DawsonREPORTING INTERN

Danielle Dawson is a reporting intern for inewsource through a partnership between the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Institute for Nonprofit News. Originally from San Diego, she joined the newsroom after graduating from Columbia University with a master’s degree...