Newest COVID-19 boosters expected to be available in Hampton Roads this weekend

The newest COVID boosters, meant for immunizing against the newest strains of the coronavirus, are expected to reach local health departments and stores this weekend, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

New vaccines meant to tackle the highly contagious Omicron variant and the original strain of the virus were approved for emergency use Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The new doses are advised to be taken at least two months following a most recent booster or primary vaccination, according to the FDA.

Lineages of the Omicron variant, designated as BA.4 and BA.5, make up most of the country’s new COVID-19 cases — a trend expected to continue into the fall and winter, according to the FDA.

“The COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, continue to save countless lives and prevent the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) of COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert M. Califf, commissioner of the FDA in the Wednesday news release. “As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants.”

The newest boosters have been deemed safe for those older than 12 because they are manufactured the same way as previous vaccines and booster doses that were investigated and found to be safe for human use, according to the FDA.

On Friday, 2,759 new COVID-19 cases were reported, according to data updated Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Health. Over the last three month period, the highest weekly average for new COVID-19 cases was on July 27, with a weekly average of 3,110.1 new cases reported, while the lowest weekly average over the last 90 days was on June 22 with a weekly average of 2,397.6 new cases reported in Virginia.

An average of 793 Virginians were in the hospital because of COVID-19 every day over the last week, while in the Eastern region, which includes Hampton Roads, an average of 115 Virginians were in the hospital over the last week, according to data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association updated Friday. Virginia COVID hospitalizations reached their second lowest point since spring 2020 on April 17 at 151.3 before starting a general increase that continues today.

Unvaccinated Americans ages 50 and older were 14 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than Americans ages 50 and older who had been vaccinated with two or more boosters, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinated Americans ages 50 and older with only one booster were three times more likely to die from COVID than vaccinated Americans ages 50 and older with two or more boosters, according to the CDC.

Ian Munro, ian.munro@virginiamedia.com, @iamIanMunro