COVID vaccine
Vaccination card example. Photo via Pixabay.

Long Beach health officials began offering doses of the newly approved Novavax vaccine against COVID-19 Monday, with Los Angeles County scheduled to start administering the medication on Wednesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine July 13 after it was found to be 90% effective against mild, moderate and severe disease in the company’s Phase 3 clinical trial involving 30,000 participants ages 18 and older.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the protein-based Novavax vaccine was developed without the use of mRNA technology.

“We are thrilled to begin offering the Novavax vaccine to our community,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “With more options available, we are increasing access to these life-saving vaccines. We urge everyone to become vaccinated and protected if they haven’t already. Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

Residents 18 years and older can get the Novavax vaccine, which is a two-dose primary series, with the second dose administered three weeks after the first. Boosters are not recommended and the Novavax vaccine is not authorized for children 17 and younger.

Long Beach officials said the Novavax vaccine will not be listed on the state’s MyTurn vaccine-scheduling website until later in the month, but residents who would like to receive it can visit a city-run vaccine clinic. A list of sites is available online at longbeach.gov/vaxlb or by calling 562-570-4636.

Beginning Wednesday, residents in other parts of Los Angeles County will be able to receive the vaccine at any Los Angeles County Department of Public Health vaccination location.

Residents can also contact their provider to see if their provider is offering Novavax.

The availability of the new vaccine comes as the region slowly emerges from a surge of infections that almost prompted a new indoor mask-wearing mandate in the county. With case and hospitalization rates steadily dropping, the county announced last week it would defer imposing the mandate.

The county could officially move from the “high” to “medium” transmission level this week.

The county’s seven-day case rate — while still elevated at 426 cases per 100,000 people — declined from 481 per 100,000 the previous week, according to the latest data.

In addition, using the most recent hospitalization data, Los Angeles County is experiencing a rate of 9.7 new hospitalizations — suggesting that by Thursday, assuming rates stay stable or decline, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could designate the county at the “medium” community level.

As of Saturday, the last day figures were available, there were 1,220 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, with 137 of them being treated in intensive care units.

While masks are not being required indoors, they are strongly recommended, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

“As we are hopefully moving to the medium community level, we will need to continue to use common-sense safety measures to reduce community transmission to a level that causes less disruption, less illness, and less death,” she said.

“We have great tools and we will need to use them. Please be up-to-date on your vaccinations to reduce your chances of severe illness should you get infected; wear your mask indoors to reduce the spread of an infectious agent at its source, while also protecting the wearer from aerosolized virus and respiratory droplets.”

The health department on Monday reported 13,373 new COVID cases — 7,020 from Saturday, 3,604 from Sunday and 2,749 for Monday. The county does not release COVID numbers on weekends.

The new infections gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,305,972.

Another 41 deaths over the three-day period were also reported, raising the county’s overall virus-related death toll to 32,747.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 13.5% as of Monday.

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