Tri-State health officials prepare for new COVID variants, tweaks to booster shots

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Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 18:38:30-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — Changes to COVID-19 vaccines could be on the way. Predicting when, though, is a problem challenging federal regulators and vaccine providers in the Tri-State.

Though one in every three people in Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant Counties is unvaccinated, Northern Kentucky Health saw empty clinics Wednesday. None had vaccine patients. One week prior, all vaccine providers — public and private — in those counties gave less than 2,000 doses.

"We do think this is probably something that we're going to have to be proactive against," said Suzi Francis, Director of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Ambulatory Clinical Pharmacy.

Francis said she expects a change in what kind of shots people get and she is hardly alone.

"Remember, we started out (with) COVID-19," said Dr. O'Dell Owens, a former Cincinnati Health Commissioner. "That's all you knew. All of a sudden your vocabulary said delta, omicron and then the new variant."

Food and Drug Administration researchers said the B.A.2 strain is involved in half of new coronavirus infections. In data from Isreal, FDA advisors saw evidence that a second booster shot lowered rates of severe illness in people over 50 years old. However, what everyone else should do is less clear.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research suggests immunity percentages begin to wane in fully vaccinated people four months after receiving a first booster shot. FDA advisers discussed tweaking vaccine formulas to target one or more variants. However, targeting the right strain at the right moment is a challenge that could take time to conquer.

"Is this the end?" Owens said. "No. Probably in the fall, probably, you're going to need another vaccination. As long as the variant keeps mutating, evolving, we're going to have to have some boosters."

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