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New COVID-19 boosters that target the omicron variant could arrive in Arizona soon

Arizona’s COVID-19 outbreak continues to show signs of improvement, according to the latest update from the state health department. And the state could soon begin offering updated booster vaccines to protect against a potential winter surge. 

In its  weekly update Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 8,661 COVID-19 cases, which is about the same number that the state reported  last week. But test positivity rates in the state fell for the fifth week in a row. And hospital utilization numbers are also declining. The  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports less than 3% of hospital ICU beds in the state are now occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

“Things seem to be trending in the appropriate direction,” said Eugene Livar, chief of the bureau of epidemiology and disease control with the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

COVID-19 cases are declining nationwide. But federal health officials anticipate infections could begin climbing again this fall or winter. So the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday  authorized reformulated vaccines that will target the highly contagious omicron variant, which is currently the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to give a final recommendation for the new booster shots, but the Arizona Department of Health Services reports it already has 35,400 doses pre-ordered.

“Our expectation is that vaccines will arrive early next week,” Livar said. 

The new booster doses are made by Pfizer and Moderna. Most Arizonans who were fully vaccinated or boosted with the original vaccine formulas at least two months ago would likely be eligible for the new boosters, depending on what the CDC recommends. Pfizer's vaccine is for people over the age of 12. Moderna's would be available to adults 18 or older. 

Livar said the state health department continues to encourage all Arizonans to get up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines. 

“It can reduce the severity of illness, it can help keep you out of the hospital and make sure that those resources are available for others if needed, and you can not only help protect yourself, but help protect others by getting vaccinated if you’re eligible,” Livar said. 

Deepta Bhattacharya, professor of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, joined The Show on Thursday to talk about the significance of the booster and vaccinations.

Professor Deepta Bhattacharya on The Show with host Steve Goldstein


Arizona coronavirus cases, deaths

Get the latest news on COVID-19 in Arizona 

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.