PORTLAND, Ore. — Booster shots that protect against the newest omicron strain of COVID-19 are arriving in Oregon. The state is expecting upwards of 150,000 boosters initially, and leaders believe the supply will be enough to meet demand.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) held a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the rollout of the new boosters and the status of the pandemic in Oregon.
As of Sept. 7, the state has received over 69,000 new booster shots. The boosters have already started to arrive to the state's public health authorities, federally qualified health centers, tribal clinics, pharmacies and high-volume vaccination centers and OHA-run community clinics. The OHA expects to have two waves of orders delivered this week, with another 75,000 doses delivered to pharmacies.
"As shipments continue to arrive in Oregon this week, OHA is asking everyone seeking the new booster to be patient. There will be enough boosters for everyone this fall," said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist and health officer.
The boosters are "bivalent" versions of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, a mixture of the original vaccine and a new formula designed specifically to provide protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the omicron variant.
BA.5 became the dominant strain earlier this year and is now, responsible for nearly all COVID infections nationally, prompting U.S. health officials to order Pfizer and Moderna to target the new boosters toward BA.5 rather than the original omicron variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the new shots last week, followed shortly by the Western States Scientific Safety Workgroup, clearing the way for administration to begin in Oregon. More than 2.7 million Oregonians are now eligible.
"As we head into the fall, as more of us spend time indoors, the updated booster will be the best way to protect ourselves and those around us from severe illness and hospitalization caused by the dominant BA. 5 and BA. 4 COVID-19 subvariants," said Sidelinger.
Jasmine Nguyen, owner of Hillsboro Pharmacy and two other pharmacies in Southeast Portland, told KGW on Tuesday that she has received 1,500 doses of the booster. Her staff is already administering the shot.
Pat Hubbell, of Brooklyn Pharmacy, expects to receive some Moderna boosters Wednesday. He hopes to start administering shots Thursday.
"I'll always be an advocate of getting vaccinated," Hubbell said. "I do believe there's value to it and I think it'll help people stay out of the hospital and stay healthier."
The new Moderna booster is for people 18 and older. The new Pfizer booster is for people 12 and older. The CDC is expected to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for all pediatric groups in the coming weeks.
Recipients must have completed their primary series of shots and, if they've already received a booster with an earlier formula, must be two months removed from that booster. The choice of primary series vaccine doesn't matter — anyone who received any primary series can get either of the two new boosters.
Oregonians can go to getvaccinated.oregon.gov to look up where to get the new boosters.