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OC Health Care Agency updates information on COVID booster shots and State school-masking requirements

o prepare for the next phase of vaccination distribution, the OC Health Care Agency continues to monitor activity by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices regarding the administration of booster shots of the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson, or J&J) COVID-19 vaccines.

On October 20, the FDA took action to expand the emergency use of a booster dose of the Moderna and J&J vaccines in eligible populations and to allow for the use of each of the available vaccines, Comirnaty (Pfizer), Moderna, and J&J, as a heterologous (or “mix and match”) booster dose in eligible individuals who have completed their primary vaccination with a different available COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are still monitoring the recommendation status of Moderna and J&J boosters, as well as on the ability to mix and match vaccines,” says Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Deputy County Health Officer. “We expect COVID-19 vaccine providers to begin offering booster shots to eligible individuals once official statements are made by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup and the California Department of Public Health in support of the FDA’s and CDC’s recommendations.”

As the HCA continues delivering vaccines to the most vulnerable population and hard-to-reach communities in Orange County, individuals who are not yet vaccinated are encouraged to visit any local pharmacy or healthcare provider, or go online to Vaccines.gov, MyTurn.ca.gov or Othena.com, to schedule a vaccination appointment. Over 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to be among people who are unvaccinated.

Additionally, individuals who are immunocompromised and received the Comirnaty or Moderna mRNA vaccines for their initial vaccine series are encouraged to schedule an appointment for their third dose of the same vaccine that they initially received.

For frequently asked questions about booster doses or third doses for the immunocompromised, please visit COVIDVaccineFacts.com and click on “Vaccine FAQs.”

State provides update on COVID-19 guidance for schools

On October 20, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón issued a joint statement reaffirming the State’s approach to preventing COVID-19 in schools and protecting students’ health and continuing universal indoor masking requirements in K-12 settings.

According to the statement, more than 25 counties continue to experience high transmission even though infection rates are decreasing, hospital capacity remains impacted in some regions, and approximately 80 Californians continue to die daily on average. Recent studies from the 2021-2022 school year confirm that schools with universal masking requirements are less likely to experience outbreaks, and that areas of the United States without school mask mandates experienced larger increases in pediatric COVID-19 case rates after the school year began, compared to areas with school mask requirements.

Consistent with the guidance, the State will continue to assess conditions on an ongoing basis to determine whether to update mask requirements or recommendations.

“Parents can visit the State’s Safe Schools for All Hub at schools.covid19.ca.gov to find key resources and information related to COVID-19 and schools,” says Dr. Clayton Chau, County Health Officer. “They can find a parent portal as well as answers to frequently asked questions about K-12 school guidance.”

Status of COVID-19 cases in Orange County

Between October 15 and October 21, the seven-day average COVID-19 case rate dropped from 7.5 to 6.5 per 100,000 people, with the average number of daily COVID-19 cases declining from 242 to 209. The positivity rate also decreased from 2.6 to 2.5 percent and hospitalizations from 210 to 200 per day. ICU admissions slightly increased from 39 to 42 per day.

Orange County COVID-19 case count and testing figures are updated daily, Monday through Friday, at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc

The article above was released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.