Latest Information on the Approved Booster and New COVID-19 Variant BA.2.86

Sept. 19, 2023

As of 9/12/2023 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended and approved the updated 2023-2024 (monovalent, XBB containing) COVID-19 vaccines for persons 6 months of age and older. THese new boosters target new variants and recent data suggest they can produce antibodies against BA.2.86 and EG.5.3 variants. Vaccination locations are already scheduling appointments. If you are immunocompromised you can get your vaccine as soon as two months after your last booster. For lower risk individuals making sure you get boosted at least two to four weeks prior to high risk activities like traveling for the holidays is important. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released a risk assessment summarizing the most up-to-date information regarding the new COVID-19 variant called BA.2.86. As of August 23, 2023, cases of the new variant have been detected in Denmark and Israel. There are at least two cases in the United States. While it is too soon to know the exact level of severity of this variant of COVID-19, the CDC is closely monitoring cases and hospitalization rates to identify whether this strain will cause more severe illness. As the new variants continue to increase in prevalence, getting a booster becomes even more important.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,457 new COVID-19 cases on August 30th, 2023, compared to the 157,541 new cases reported in one week of January 2022, at the height of the pandemic in Arizona. Experts predict COVID-19 spikes to follow previous patterns of Summer and Winter spikes in cases as we have seen since 2019. More information regarding COVID-19 numbers in Arizona can be accessed here.

According to the CDC, much of the United States population already has some protection from SARS-CoV-2, whether from previous infection or the COVID-19 vaccination. It is likely that these antibodies will provide some protection against severe disease caused by the new COVID-19 variant. Getting a booster will enhance your immune system response even further. Within the state of Arizona, 77% of individuals are vaccinated, the majority of those being residents within Pima and Maricopa County. Testing and medications used to treat COVID-19 have been effective with this new variant. In Arizona, there have been 321,796 diagnostic tests completed for COVID-19 within the last six months, 10.2% of which were positive. More information from the CDC regarding the new variant can be found here

Vaccination and awareness of virus transmission are key factors in protecting oneself and others from the new variant. COVID-19 spreads through droplets and very small particles that contain the COVID-19 virus. When these droplets are inhaled or land on shared surfaces, there is a risk of transmission of the virus to others. 

To protect yourself and others against the new variant, the Center for Disease Control recommends:

  • Get your COVID-19 vaccine and booster
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you suspect you are infected
  • Wear a mask to prevent the spread of illness
  • Seek treatment from medical professionals if you experience severe symptoms (difficulty breathing or chest pain)

The following resources can be utilized to protect oneself and others from the new COVID-19 variant:

  1. Arizona COVID-19 hotline 1-844-542-8201
  2. COVID-19 vaccine finder here 
  3. COVID-19 testing locations here
  4. Tucson Mobile Health Unit Locations here