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SALT LAKE CITY — The COVID-19 virus continues to change and cases are increasing, but Utah doctors say recent developments in the fight against COVID-19 are positive.
“COVID continues to evolve and has shown us over the last three years that it is a dynamic virus that continues to change,” Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the U.S. Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, told a panel Friday. of experts. Health experts at the University of Utah analyzed the new COVID-19 vaccine that is coming out and the new subvariants they seek to combat.
Three subvariants of omicron are emerging, Pavia said, but the newest vaccine has been tested in recently infected people and found to be successful in neutralizing the virus. The vaccine is expected to be available next week.
One of the subvariants, eris, has more than 30 mutations, meaning it “could cause a lot more problems,” Pavia said. However, Pavia said it has been found to not spread as quickly as other variants and that newer boosters also neutralize it well.
Director of Medical Operations Dr. Russell Vinik said that in the first week of June, 25 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the University of Utah Health facilities. However, the first week of September saw 200 positive tests, as well as an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The key, Vinik said, is that very few of the hospitalizations come from patients completely up to date on their vaccines and boosters. “Good news…the vaccines are still effective and we hope this new booster will be even more effective in preventing cases and hospitalizations,” he said.
Kavish Choudhary, chief pharmacy officer at U. Health, said there will not be mass vaccination clinics, as there have been in the past, but vaccines will be available at regular pharmacies and doctor’s offices.
Choudhary said the booster will be available to anyone 6 months and older. Choudhary encouraged anyone who gets the annual flu vaccine to also get the new booster dose.
Pavia said the newer vaccines launching Monday will have the same side effects as previous vaccines, such as sore arms and flu-like symptoms. Pavia emphasized that recent data shows that the risk of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, which was occurring when vaccines first appeared in 2020, has decreased significantly.
What about herd immunity?
“We would dramatically reduce community spread if we could vaccinate 90% of the population,” Pavia said. “That’s what the models show. That’s not going to happen. But we do believe that the more people who get vaccinated, the less impact we will have from these waves of disease.”
The panel closed with the announcement that an RSV vaccine is also on the way, specifically aimed at newborns and people over 60 years of age. There’s no exact estimated date for its release, but Pavia said, “We hope it’s here.” coming soon.”
Doctors hope that the RSV vaccine will prevent children from getting RSV or being hospitalized with RSV. Pavia said pregnant women are recommended to receive it to protect babies before they are born.