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About 14,000 San Diego County residents have received second booster shots for COVID-19 since the federal government approved them for those age 50 and older early last week.
Though an additional 5,000 — most with compromised immune systems or under doctors orders — received early fourth shots before broad approval on March 29, the early numbers show that the region has seen no big rush to line up for another coronavirus shot despite government records that doing so will bolster waning immunity.
Federal second-booster approval is for anyone age 50 and older who is at least four months beyond their first booster shot. That’s nearly 471,000 people across the region, the county said in an email Thursday. After the first week of approval, counting those who got additional shots early for medical reasons, only 4 percent of those who are eligible have so far gotten second boosters.
And, at the moment, there appears to be little concern that a tidal wave of demand is about to arrive.
Local health care providers, nonprofit groups and the county health department all report a general decrease in demand for testing and vaccination as the pandemic produces fewer cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Of course, it’s still early. It has only been a week since second boosters became available to so many, and health providers are still pulling together their outreach plans for patients who qualify to get double boosted.
Chris Van Gorder, chief executive officer of Scripps Health, said Thursday that plans are underway to offer vaccinations and boosters in some of the provider’s Health Express clinics.
“Right now, I’d be speculating, but I think demand will be good from those (age) 60 and older and modest at best by those 50 to 60,” Van Gorder said in an email. “However, if we start to experience a BA.2 surge or see another variant, the demand will increase significantly.”
BA.2, the subvariant closely related to the Omicron variant, appears to be steadily outcompeting its predecessor. Helix, a national testing firm based in San Diego, recently found that 75 percent of coronavirus samples that underwent genetic sequencing the week of March 27 were BA.2, compared to 71 percent the week of March 20 and 51 percent the week of March 13.
The county announced Wednesday that it is shifting its local testing and vaccination strategy in response to lower demand.
Dr. Denise Foster, the county’s chief nursing officer, said that while county and state-run testing locations were handling about 55,000 tests per week this past winter with Omicron spreading, recent averages are about 6,000. Vaccination has seen a similar decrease, especially given that 90 percent of residents are vaccinated by their health provider or at a pharmacy.
“In some sites, demand has almost completely dried up, whereas others have slowed down but still have some activity,” Foster said.
She said the idea is to keep resources in areas where vaccination rates are known to be lower, or where there are fewer accessible health care resources, especially for those without health insurance.
As of Wednesday, the total number of government-sponsored testing sites has shrunk from 25 to 18, with two more to close on April 30. The county also plans to close full-time vaccination operations at the County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa and at the county Educational Cultural Complex in Southeast San Diego on April 30 and April 16, respectively.
However, the net effect will be an increase in the number of county-run vaccination sites. While a handful will be closed, coronavirus vaccines will be added to the capabilities of the county’s six main public health clinics, which served as the main locations for vaccinations of all types before the pandemic arrived in 2020. The plan is also to increase the number of mobile vaccination clinics, even repurposing a bookmobile to move from three to four mobile clinics per week to seven or eight.
“We’ve learned that being in the right place at the right time with trusted messengers and nurses, that mobile model really does work well, and we want to continue to use it,” Foster said.
A full list of county and state-run locations offering vaccination and testing is available at coronavirus-sd.com or by calling 211.
Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com