The Hawaii Department of Health today said it recommends the use of the new bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccines.
The updated boosters are reformulated to protect against both the original COVID strain and the most recent omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the latter of which is dominant across the U.S.
Federal approvals of the updated boosters have been swift.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the updated boosters by Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna, saying after reviews of the “totality of evidence” available, it was highly confident they were safe and effective.
Today, an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed Pfizer’s bivalent booster for people ages 12 and older as well as Moderna’s bivalent booster for adults ages 18 and older. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky followed by endorsing the panel’s recommendation.
“If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” she said in a statement posted to Twitter.
DOH has already pre-ordered its full allotment of 37,800 doses — 27,300 of Pfizer and 10,500 of Moderna – from the federal government. Those initial orders are expected to arrive in coming days. DOH said it will place additional orders weekly as needed.
Pharmacies and community health centers are also placing orders independently, so more than DOH’s allotment of doses will be available statewide.
“The COVID-19 boosters we have been using do a good job of protecting us against severe illness,” said DOH Director Dr. Elizabeth “Libby” Char in a news release. “The new bivalent boosters are an upgrade because they take into account mutations of the COVID-19 virus to specifically address Omicron subvariants.”
In Hawaii, BA.5 accounts for at least 91% while BA.4 makes up 4% of new COVID cases in Hawaii, according to the variant report released Wednesday.
The new bivalent vaccines are to be administered as a single booster dose to those who previously completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and those who have had one or two booster doses if it has been at least two months since a person’s most recent vaccination.
Additionally, the new bivalent vaccines replace previously authorized monovalent mRNA boosters for people age 12 and older.
CDC continues to recommend Pfizer’s monovalent boosters for children ages 5 through 11.
Appointments for the bivalent vaccines are expected to become available soon from individual vaccine providers upon delivery, and will be listed at DOH’s vaccine finder map at hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine.