Local infectious disease specialist: New booster shots will help protect against fall surge

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. Local health officials said they still have people hospitalized with COVID, some in the ICU who are not boosted.

The U.S authorized its first update to COVID-19 boosters to target the most common omicron strain we’re dealing with now.

Rochester Regional Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Emil Lesho said this new vaccine is the first tweak since the FDA has authorized an updated vaccine formula since the original shots were rolled out in late 2020. He’s calling this one a game-changer.

“It now has the components that include the latest what are called variants, the new versions of the virus that have been circulating and causing the majority of the infections,” Lesho said.

Lesho said this new version of the booster will provide better protection against the B.A.5 and B.A.4 variants.

“It’s another tool in our toolkit to help mitigate or prevent serious infections,” Lesho said.

Lesho said that in Rochester, this is important because we are still seeing people admitted to the hospital with the virus.

“The majority still in the ICU, even though two or three of them are not fully vaccinated, so it’s important to become up to date on all of your shots,” Lesho said.

The CDC still has to sign off on the boosters. Health officials said they’re worried about a fall and winter surge and hope they can get ahead of it with the new booster.

“We are looking at a possible fall wave with a peak around Dec. 1,” FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks said. “And by giving the booster now we will hopefully both control the current plateau we are in and even though we are dropping off, we are dropping off very slowly, as well as address this potential wave that looms out there.”

Health officials said the risk goes up every day as immunity starts to wear off.

“People are going indoors and then the virus continues to evolve and become not necessarily more severe but more spreadable,” Lesho said.

For some people, this would be their third booster shot if they do decide to get it. Dr. Lesho said the shots will first go through Dr. Mendoza at the Monroe County Health Department. Then they will be able to start giving them out in the next few weeks after Labor Day.