Updated COVID-19 vaccines coming soon

Vaccines updated to protect against other variants of COVID-19 should be available on Whidbey soon.

Vaccines that have been updated to protect against the “Kraken” and other variants of COVID-19 should be available on Whidbey Island soon.

Whidbey has been experiencing a moderate increase in COVID activity, as suggested by the high concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 found in wastewater samples in Oak Harbor and Coupeville.

While cases rise country-wide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone aged 6 months and older to get the updated 2023-24 COVID vaccines. Washington state is expecting to receive the new Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines within the next several days, according to information provided by Island County Public Health Director Shawn Morris, COVID Response Supervisor Susan Wagner and epidemiologist Jamie Hamilton.

The original Novavax vaccine is still available to people over the age of 12, but the company is planning to release an updated version later this year, they said.

Island County Public Health will contact and keep track of providers and pharmacies distributing the vaccines in the county and will post the information on its website. Currently, the distribution of vaccines is being commercialized, a transition that may cause limited availability at first, as it is in its early stages.

Pharmacies and providers will order vaccines based on demand. Some may not provide COVID vaccines, while others may not have all vaccine versions, according to Public Health.

The CDC reports that studies show the new Moderna shot can provide strong protection against currently common variants, while preclinical studies conducted to date on the new Pfizer vaccine show a strong immune response against the BBB.1.5 variant — or “Kraken.”

While the vaccines remain free for most insured Americans, adults without insurance or with insurance that does not cover all COVID vaccine costs can get immunized for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program, which launched officially this week and is set to end in December 2024. The Vaccines for Children program will provide vaccines to enrolled children from low-income families that can’t afford them.

The Department of Health recommends 6-month-old to 4-year-old children who are unvaccinated complete an initial vaccine series first — so two doses of Moderna or three doses of Pfizer — while vaccinated children within that age range are eligible to receive one or two doses (depending on how many vaccines they previously received against the virus) of the updated vaccine.

Anyone aged 5 years and older, regardless of vaccination status and dose count, is eligible for one shot of the updated vaccine, to be received at least two months after their last dose.

Immunocompromised people may get additional doses of the updated vaccine.

According to the CDC, people should get the vaccine even if they’ve already had the virus. The organization recommends taking the vaccine three months after the symptoms started, or three months after receiving a positive test for those who presented no symptoms.

Morris, Wagner and Hamilton estimate that about 63% of all residents on Whidbey have completed their primary vaccination series — two shots of Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax, or one of the withdrawn Johnson and Johnson vaccines.