By Jorge Casuso
October 16, 2023 -- LA County Public Health officials are urging residents to seek "reliable sources" of information as COVID booster shots are encountering a predictably lukewarm reception.
The latest data show that only 7 million Americans have been vaccinated with the booster shot rolled out a month ago that singularly targets the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant of the coronavirus.
Last year, the booster targeting the original virus, as well as an earlier variant, was eventually taken by 56.5 million people in the U.S. between its rollout in September and May 2023.
The new booster shot, however, will be far less short-lived as the sole variant it targets has already been overtaken by subsequent variants that have evolved, according to health experts.
In addition,, despite warnings of possible spikes after summer holidays and into the fall season, hospitalizations and deaths have remained at the lowest level since the virus began spreading three and a half years ago.
According to County Health data through September 30, the Hospital Admission Level is Low at 5.2 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, down from 6.1 reported the week before.
Meanwhile, COVID-related deaths have remained steady during the past four months, with a daily average of four to five deaths reported in the County of more than 10 million.
The mild impact of the variant has prompted health experts to urge only older residents and those with underlying health issues to get the latest booster shot.
This is reflected in a Q & A recently published in USA Today.
Q: What if I'm young and healthy? Do I really need another booster?
A: The short answer is: probably not. As long as you don't mind being sick for a week or two.
"For young, healthy people, the main benefit of a COVID-19 booster will be small and short-lived," USA Today wrote.
Although LA County Public Health officials continue to urge all residents 6 months and older to get the latest booster, they are tempering their advice.
"When faced with important medical choices, people typically have questions and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health encourages residents to look to reliable sources for accurate information about the updated COVID-19 vaccine," County Health officials said last Thursday.
"People who have been recently infected may consider delaying their COVID-19 vaccine dose by three months from symptom onset or positive test because they may have some protection from the virus after infection," officials said.
The slow rollout -- also due to insurance snags and a price tag of about $100 for the uninsured -- has already prompted Pfizer to adjust its yearly sales outlook by some $9 billion, according to reports.
Company officials said Pfizer cut its revenue projections "solely due to its Covid products."
Moderna, the other pharmaceutical company that rolled out the latest mRNA vaccine booster, is "sticking by its forecast range for 2023 Covid-19 vaccine sales," despite a drop in stock prices, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The new Novavax vaccine, which relies on a more traditional protein-based method, also targets the XBB.1.5 viral variant but does not contain modified viral genetic material, according to a recent article in Scientific American.
None of the three vaccines "are optimized for newer versions of the virus, including the Eris and Pirola variants that became prominent in August and appear better able to escape the immune system than previous mutants," the magazine reported.
The Novavax booster "seems to have a lower risk of causing myocarditis or pericarditis -- heart conditions that occasionally occur, especially in young men -- although it does not have zero risk," according to the article.
Myocarditis is the inflammation and damage of the heart muscle; pericarditis is the inflammation of the thin membrane around heart. Both can be dangerous or life-threatening if not treated
The latest surveys indicate that the public has grown more reluctant to take the COVID vaccines.
A nationwide survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in California found that 52 percent of respondents said they "definitely" or "probably" would not get the new shot.
That compares with 12 percent of respondents surveyed last year who said they "definitely" would not get the booster, while 18 percent said they would "wait and see."
The same vaccine hesitancy was reflected in a poll of Santa Monica residents that found most do not plan to get the latest booster ("Local Poll Finds Most Don't Plan to Take Booster Shot," October 3, 2023).