Coronavirus

'It's Not Over': Dallas County Has Received the Updated Omicron Vaccine

Dallas County health officials are encouraging residents to get an updated COVID-19 booster.
Dallas County health officials are encouraging residents to get an updated COVID-19 booster. Lauren Drewes Daniels
The newly updated bivalent COVID-19 boosters have arrived in Dallas County, meaning residents can now get protection from the latest strains of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Dr. Philip Huang of the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that the updated booster doses had arrived. Some pharmacies had also already received the doses, he added.

The vaccines arrived just days after the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation reported that children make up around one in three new COVID-19 cases in the county. Although overall positive cases were not spiking, school-aged children had experienced a sharp surge in coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

The especially contagious omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have driven the uptick in cases among school children, the center added.

"It's not over," said Huang. "Some people think it's all over, but it's not … and it's still important for people to catch up on their vaccines."

Huang said that getting the updated bivariant version of the vaccine is important because it provides protection against subvariants such as the highly contagious Omicron, and can help slow down its spread, particularly with students going back to school.

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the state is set to receive around 900,000 doses of the vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Douglas Loveday, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, said by email that the subvariants "are the cause of nearly all new COVID-19 cases in Texas and around the country."

"People who are fully vaccinated are eligible for these new boosters," said Loveday, adding: "At least two months must have passed from completion of a primary vaccination series or a booster dose for people to be eligible for these new bivalent boosters."

Loveday added that vaccines are "the most important tool we can employ in the fight against severe illness and death from COVID-19."

Still, Texas' vaccination rate remains lower the national average. While some 68% of people across the country are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, only 62% of Texans have received the two doses required to be considered fully protected. In Dallas County, around six in ten residents are fully vaccinated, according to state health authorities.

On Friday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said on Twitter that health authorities had recorded 464 new COVID-19 cases and one new coronavirus-related death in the last two weeks.

Earlier this week, U.S. health authorities said the country would likely recommend a vaccine dose each year, much like the flu shot. That would mean "one COVID-19 shot, once a year, each fall," President Joe Biden said in a statement.

"Winter is not that far away," Biden added. "The past two years, we have seen COVID-19 cases and deaths soar. It does not have to be that way this year."
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Kate Pezzulli, an editorial fellow for the Observer, is a graduate student at the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Besides storytelling, she likes sailing, working on Jeeps, camping, potting and baking. Voted No. 1 friend in an apocalypse.
Contact: Kate Pezzulli