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.”
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.