Cases: The county avoided a mask mandate when cases declined and is now expanding vaccine options. Courtesy image

Data indicated Los Angeles County was past the peak of the current COVID-19 wave as of Thursday, Aug. 4, despite metrics officially keeping the County in the “high” transmission tier for the third consecutive week, according to the latest information from LA County.

“The preliminary data that CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] posted a short while ago for today calculates the hospital admission rate at 10.1 [new hospital admissions per 100,000 residents], keeping LA County in the high community level,” LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) Director Barbara Ferrer said during her Thursday, Aug. 4, COVID media briefing. “While this is disappointing given that the County and CDC calculated hospital admission rate has been at or below 10 for the last few days, we do remain hopeful that this number can be adjusted soon so that the County will officially be moved into the medium community level.”

Other numbers have fallen dramatically in the last couple of weeks since peaking in mid-July, including the seven-day average for daily cases, seven-day average percent of emergency department encounters classified as coronavirus-related and new worksite cluster reports.

At the weekly DPH briefing, Ferrer formally acknowledged the development of new vaccine formulas specially designed to combat the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants of the virus, which are the dominant strains of the virus and are less responsive to current vaccines than previous variants.

“At the end of June, the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] formally requested that vaccine manufacturers prepare an mRNA vaccine booster that includes ingredients targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron. These boosters would be created using the same well-tested technology that’s already being used in the current mRNA vaccines,” Ferrer said, later adding, “Reportedly, the federal government will begin purchasing millions of doses of these new boosters from both companies [Pfizer and Moderna], once they have been developed, been reviewed thoroughly and have received authorization, which is expected sometime in the fall, and it perhaps could happen as early as sometime in September.”

Ferrer said it was not yet clear when these boosters would become widely available and what criteria may be for accessing them. The current second booster shots DPH currently recommends remain available only to those ages 50 and older or adults who are immunocompromised. 

In addition to the ongoing development of boosters targeting new virus variants, another coronavirus vaccine is now available for those who have not yet received their first shots.

Ferrer encouraged LA County residents who have never been vaccinated against COVID-19 to consider a Novavax vaccine; similar to the Pfizer and Moderna shots, Novavax vaccines are a two-dose series given three to eight weeks apart. But unlike the mRNA vaccines, Novavax follows a “method used for decades to make Hepatitis B, whooping cough, and other vaccines,” according to DPH materials. Health officials were hopeful the development of the Novavax vaccine might convince some mRNA vaccine skeptics to consider it as an alternative.

More information on Novavax is available at vaccinatelacounty.com.

emily@smdp.com