Jessica Dormus and Methinee Mullen process swab samples with Abbott Antigen rapid tests at an Unidos En Salud (United in Health) low barrier COVID-19 test site located at 24th Mission Bart Station targeting San Francisco's hardest hit Latino community on March 2, 2021.

As we head into fall, and with another rise of Covid-19 likely, doctors are encouraging the community to get a bivalent booster shot.

Similarly to the flu, the coronavirus changes constantly. A booster is recommended to best protect yourself against new strains, said Dr. Carina Marquez, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Anyone 12 or older and who hasn’t received a Covid-19 vaccine in the last two months can get one. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently approved bivalent boosters for kids 5 and up.

Shots are available at 24th and Capp Street site and at other locations in San Francisco

Marquez, who was updating the Latino Task Force in a Monday morning call, showed a slide of what can happen with and without a community taking the available precautions.  If the country gets its fall boosters at comparable rates to flu boosters, hospitalizations drop. Less than 1,000 people will be hospitalized if 80 percent of the country gets a booster.

The bivalent vaccine was engineered with the same technology as the previous monovalent vaccine, Marquez said. However, its new mRNA component prepares it better against the new variants, which are off-shoots of the highly-infectious omicron variant that rattled San Francisco earlier this year. 

A bivalent vaccine “is just an updated version with added protection against the newer covid strains,” Marquez said. “This is not a new strategy. It’s just like the flu, where … the flu vaccine gets updated each year, and we get our flu shot every year.”

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As cases jump, bivalent boosters can make a big difference in our own backyard. Presently, the vaccine site at 24th and Capp streets is reporting a 11.4 percent test positivity rate, but Marquez and experts on-site expect, as happened last year, the cases to increase as November draws closer. Cases and hospitalizations are already climbing in Europe and parts of Asia. 

“Usually what happens over there always [is seen] here,” Marquez said. “We’re seeing some new variants that … seem to be a little more infectious, cautious, and immunity is starting to wane a little bit.” 

Preventing illness through vaccines can directly benefit those in the Mission who have been affected more than the general population, the doctor reasoned. Latinx residents are still more than twice as likely to have the coronavirus affect their finances, work, and school than non-Latinx residents, according to a survey administered to more than 3,000 people at 24th and Capp. And, about 27 percent of Latinx would be unable to stay home from work if they caught covid, compared to 16 percent of non-Latinx residents. 


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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. When will the pandemic be over for you all? What are you waiting for? Covid is now among the 4 or 5 coronoviruses circulating in the human population. Like those, it will continue to circulate and infect us all multiple times. I don’t like it but those are the facts. There is no credible, good data that boosters offer additional benefits for most people. The recommendation for everyone to get one is being almost entirely ignored nation wide and no other country is saying what they (and you all) are. I believe booster uptake is still in the 5% range. No amount of hectoring from the purists will move that needle. We are all just waiting to see who will win the prize and be the very last one to take of the mask. They will be the most virtuous one of all. I do have sympathy for the folks paralyzed by the fear that people in power foisted on us all. I sincerely hope they get the help they need and deserve to recover.

      1. I clicked on the link thinking I might find something other than lame, repetitive insults and name calling. I just found a few articles you wrote. Which one states the endpoint for the pandemic and a good strategy to achieve it?

  2. Getting the bivalent booster doesn’t just protect one’s own health – it is our best chance and stopping or slowing this virus from continuing to mutate and evade protections in the future. If you want to put this pandemic behind us, the only REAL way to do that is to do your part to ensure that it’s TRULY over – by getting the bivalent booster….it’s our best chance. If people don’t do this then, yes, this will drag on and on – and mutate and mutate. It’s stupid to let this happen when we have the science and the means to prevent this. Please do your part and help.

    1. This strategy isn’t effective anymore. Vaccination is now a personal choice to protect yourself if you so please. Get the bivalent booster if you and your doctor agree but we have to stop with the protecting others narrative.

  3. Isn’t it ‘Fewer’ than 1,000 people, not ‘less’? Given people can be counted with the naked eye, ‘fewer’ is preferred whereas things not distinguishable by the naked eye are ‘less’ (water).