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County Health Recommends Booster Shots for All, Bucking Trend

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By Jorge Casuso

April 10, 2023 -- LA County Health officials are continuing to recommend COVID booster shots for all residents 6 months and older, bucking a growing trend to restrict the shot to those most at risk of becoming severely ill.

The County's recommendation comes one week after the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its guidelines to recommend healthy children under 17 not get the shot.

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"The public health impact of vaccinating healthy children and adolescents is comparatively much lower than the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children," the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) wrote last month.

County Health's recommendation on Thursday comes after an average of fewer than eight COVID-related deaths were reported each day over the previous seven days and 361 patients were hospitalized with the virus in the County of more than 10 million.

"It is difficult to overlook the fact that people continue to die and be deeply impacted by this disease, more than three years on," said County Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

"I fear that people do not know the full risks, or that protection is available," she said. "To lower those risks, Public Health urges all residents, especially those at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, to get the updated bivalent booster."

LA County's policies reflect the hesitancy of the federal government to join a growing number of countries that are either not recommending or opposing booster shots for children and those in good health.

France and Australia have recently recommended against updated booster shots for the general public, while Britain stopped vaccinating healthy children under 11 last fall.

While boosters continue to be pushed in the U.S., few are jumping at the chance to get the free shots.

Of the 171 million doses of the bivalent booster vaccine the Biden administration purchased last fall, approximately 116 million doses remain unused.

In California, only 25 percent of eligible residents -- those who have completed their primary vaccination series — have received the updated bivalent shot made available in September.

After vocally promoting the booster shots, some leading medical experts in the U.S. are assuming a much more cautious approach.

"It think it's reasonable to boost immunocompromised people and people in nursing homes every six months," Dr. Celine Gounder, who has been a staunch advocate of booster shots, told the New York Times.

"I do not think that annual boosters for everyone makes sense," she said.

The March 24 article, titled “Should You Get Another Covid Booster?”, also quoted Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Given the lack of data, I don’t think it’s fair to say to people, ‘Inject yourself with a biological agent,’” Offit, who has been a leading advocate of the mRNA vaccines, said.

With the current unused batch reaching its expiration date, Federal officials are considering authorizing another booster shot after FDA approval this spring, but it is unclear who will be eligible or when it will be rolled out.

LA County remains in the CDC’s Low COVID-19 Community Level for the 12th consecutive week, as the case count, number of virus-related deaths and hospital admissions all dropped.

The current weekly case rate is 27 new cases per 100,000 people, while the 7-day total for new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people is currently 3.9.

In Santa Monica, there have been 77 confirmed coronavirus cases over the past three weeks -- about 26 per week, down from 45 one month ago, according to County Health data.

There have been a total of 26,295 confirmed COVID cases in the City of 93,000 since the first case was confirmed on March 16, 2020 and 299 virus-related deaths, two of them reported over the past three weeks.

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