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Updated COVID-19 vaccine available in Wasatch Back

A staff member poses with a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination health center.
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FILE - A health worker holds a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

A new vaccine is here to protect against the omicron variant of COVID-19.

A new type of COVID-19 vaccine booster specifically targets the most current variants of the virus, and people in the Wasatch Back can now schedule an appointment to get the shot.

The updated booster is made to target two common subvariants of omicron called BA.4 and BA.5.

“The original vaccines became less effective,” Summit County Nursing Director Derek Moss said. “It’s just a way to tell our immune systems what to look for. Omicron’s just modified enough from the original strain that we need this extra.”

He compared the updated COVID booster to seasonal flu shots. That’s because flu strains also mutate, and new vaccines help immune systems recognize the flu virus and fight against it.

Summit County and Wasatch County health departments and pharmacies have doses of the new types of booster made by both Pfizer and Moderna.

The new boosters are not designed to be a primary vaccine dose for someone who’s never gotten a COVID shot. People who have had two doses of the original Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose made by Johnson & Johnson are eligible. Anyone who has had a primary or booster vaccine dose within the last two months is not eligible yet.

Everyone 12 and up is eligible for the new Pfizer shot, while the new Moderna shot is for those 18 and older.

Moss said the Summit County Health Department started giving the omicron-specific boosters Tuesday, and appointments were booked out through Wednesday.

Wasatch County Health Department Epidemiologist Chris Smoot said the first new doses arrived in the Heber Valley last week. He said demand has been high, and the first available appointments are next week.

Both counties are in the low transmission category. Smoot said earlier this summer there was a surge, but it brought fewer hospitalizations than others did in the past.

He attributed that to more widespread COVID immunity and more effective treatments for it at this stage of the pandemic.

“Transmission seems to be pretty low right now,” Smoot said, “which is good, especially since school just got in and there’s some potential for spread there with kids and staff and parents, even, congregating more so than they did in the summer.”

To schedule an appointment at one of the Summit County Health Department’s three offices, visit summitcountyhealth.org/immunizations. To schedule with the Wasatch County Health Department, visit coronavirus.wasatch.utah.gov/vaccine.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.