Ga., S.C. experts say new COVID boosters could prevent new surge

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Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 6:42 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - Health agencies across the two-state region are getting ready for the rollout of the new COVID boosters shots that offer more protection against newer and more contagious variants of coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed the new shots, paving the way for their use as early as next week. The old boosters are now considered outdated, and the CDC says they won’t be used anymore.

The new Pfizer booster is authorized for ages 12 years and older, while the new Moderna booster is for ages 18 years and older.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control public health director, said this added protection could be critical toward curbing another potential surge.

“Part of learning to live with this virus being endemic is the awareness that we are going to continue to have some surges,” she said. “However, we want them to stay as very small surges, little blips. And really they have the potential I think to become almost like the flu, a seasonal type of increase.”

Dr. Helmut Albrecht, an infectious disease specialist with Prisma Health in South Carolina, said this update to the COVID-19 vaccine recipe could be an important step in the fight against the virus.

“We cannot give 12 boosters a year, but if a new, significantly different variant comes out once a year, twice a year, that can be answered with adapting the vaccine much more quickly than we have in the past,” he said.

In Georgia, Dr. Tim Connelly says the new vaccines are vital for limiting the spread of COVID-19 this fall and winter.

The new vaccine, according to Connelly, is about 5% more effective than the previous one with a roughly 90% efficacy rate of not being hospitalized with the virus.

“The tweaks are very minor to the vaccine that we’re getting,” he said.

The vaccine recently approved by the FDA is made up 50% of the original vaccine and the other half is geared towards the omicron subvariants, Connelly said.

The Omicron BA.5 and BA.4 variants are still the most prevalent variant circulating right now but with new variants mutating often..

“We can get different variants and the shot’s likely to be very effective against those variants. The only reason we needed to updated is after approximately two years of COVID, finally we found a variant where it actually beat the vaccine in terms of having a slightly different spike protein,” he said.