This week on the Health Report, Emma Needham explains the new Bivalent Booster and we hear about its similarities with the seasonal flu vaccine.
By now, you may have heard the word “bivalent” when talking about the newest COVID vaccine booster. In biology, Bivalent means having a pair of similar related chromosomes. Some have called the new bivalent booster a two-for-one booster, helping to protect people against both “Old COVID” or original COVID 19 and New COVID, the delta, omicron and BA.4 BA.5 variants.
Here’s Laz Carrion from the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis. Laz is a registered nurse and COVID, Project Manager for the Indian Health Board.
“So these bivalent COVID vaccines are very similar to the original COVID vaccine. The only difference is the spike protein, which is the genetic makeup of the virus. This addition is based on the spike protein of BA.5 for BA.5, which are the circulating variants right now.” said Carrion, “So it’s catching up to where we’re at.”
As we enter the third season of COVID-19, health care providers are bracing for another possible fall surge in cases. Similar to the Flu Season, COVID and its variants seem to show up each fall. Laz Carreon explains more about the similarities between the COVID and Flu vaccines.
“An example I like to use with this is the flu shot. Every year they update the flu shot because there’s mutations and what’s going to hit during the projected fall season, in flu season. And that’s what they’re doing with this COVID vaccine; the bivalent is targeting what’s circulating now and start preventing symptoms,” said Carreon.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota’s vaccination rate for the primary series is around 67.5 percent. However, the percentage of people who’ve received the full series and the boosters is only 4.3 percent. Depending on where you live, percentages by county range from just under 7 percent to less than 1% of the total population. Nurse Carreon highlights the benefits of the bivalent booster.
“It goes back to a lot of people say, ‘Oh, I’ve had COVID Why do I need this vaccine?’. Well, people who have had prior infection, as we know, right now with Omicron, infections have increased dramatically. So it’s like, why do I need a vaccine? Well, people who get bivalent vaccine and have prior history of infection, which is known as hybrid immunity, are going to have the highest antibody protection levels. Studies are saying recent SARS cov two infection may consider delaying a vaccine dose three months, and that’s to prolong your protection. So I currently have my own antibodies produced from having COVID. But we don’t know how long it’s gonna last. So if I’m gonna wait three months, then my three months mark, I’m gonna go ahead and get it to extend my protection.” said Carreon.
Finding vaccines and knowing when you’re eligible to get a vaccine is getting easier with time. Laz Carreon provides the current information on who should get a bivalent vaccine and where to find one.
“Anyone 12 years of age and older are recommended to get this vaccine. So it’s 18 Plus for Moderna and 12 plus, for Pfizer to get this bivalent vaccine as long as they completed their series. So as long as they’ve had to Moderna to Pfizer, or one J&J,” said Carreon. “If you’re eligible for this vaccine. This is the one you want to get. This is the one that’s going to offer you the best protection right now.”
A lot has happened since COVID hit the US in early 2020. Not only have we added new lingo to our daily lives, like Quarantine and now bivalent, but we also adapted our lives to the ever-changing situations in an effort to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Nurse Laz Carreon reminds us how boosters fit in to that picture.
“This is what’s going to be offering that extra heightened level of protection against what is currently circulating,” said Carreon. “We all need to do our part to make sure that we’re not continuing to spread this, and especially to our vulnerable, vulnerable population, our family, our friends, our loved ones, that’s we want to protect.”
Emma Needham reporting for Minnesota Native News
Here more from Laz Carreon in our September edition of the Community Conversation.
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