The new COVID-19 vaccine is coming to North Texas. Should you take it?
The vaccine protects against the omicron variant XBB.1.5, which in June was the most common variant in the United States. A few different versions of XBB make up the largest percentage of new COVID-19 cases right now.
Parkland Health Chief Medical Officer Joseph Chang said the updated vaccine offers better protection than the booster that came out last year.
“We’ve always been playing catch-up,” he said. “We’ve been designing vaccines against the last virus, not the one that’s current. And this one is current so that’s actually a pretty good thing.”
He said the previous bivalent booster targeted omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, plus the original strain of COVID-19. This updated vaccine replaces the vaccines introduced in 2021 that targeted the original strain of the virus, according to the CDC.
Chang said COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been increasing in the past few weeks, between 175 to 235 new cases a week since the end of August, in comparison to 19 or 20 cases a week back in June.
COVID-19 vaccines prevent against serious outcomes, like hospitalization and death, and Chang said because of this it's a good idea to get the updated vaccine as soon as possible.
“I do not expect that we would ever get back to the level of the last omicron wave,” said Chang. “That said, there are still people getting sick. We have 20-25 admitted in Parkland today with effects of COVID. Back in the heyday, we were talking about 400-450 on any given day.”
Chang said Parkland Health expects to receive a shipment of the new vaccines in the coming weeks.
The vaccines will also be available at local pharmacies. CVS Pharmacies recommend calling to check vaccine availability early next week, and Walgreens has appointments for people 12 and older starting Sept. 18, and appointments for kids 11 and younger on Sept. 29.
Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services Philip Huang said long COVID is still a concerning outcome if people come down with the virus.
According to data from a study by the National Institutes of Health, “about 10% of adults infected with the virus” have long COVID symptoms – such as fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, and upper respiratory issues, like chest pain and lingering cough.
“Fortunately, we’re not where we were three years ago, but we still see different strains circulating,” Huang said. “It’s just important to take advantage of the tools we have to try to prevent infection."
He said the health department plans to order vaccines next week and make the vaccines available to people in the county without insurance.
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