FDA APPROVES MODERNA, J&J BOOSTERS AND 'MIX AND MATCH' VACCINATIONS: The Food and Drug Administration approved booster COVID-19 vaccine doses Wednesday for people who previously received the Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well as the mixing of booster doses. Read more below.
SAN MATEO COUNTY INCHES CLOSER TO RELAXING MASK MANDATE: As its COVID-19 positivity rate continues to drop, health leaders said the county has met one of three criteria necessary for allowing people to remove masks indoors. Read more below.
PLAN FOR LIFTING MASK MANDATE ANNOUNCED: Eight Bay Area counties will lift the indoor mask mandates after a series of criteria are met, they announced Oct. 7. Read the full story.
STANFORD REQUIRES COVID VACCINES FOR EMPLOYEES: Stanford is requiring all employees, whether working remotely or from the office, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8, unless they have a medical or religious accommodation. Read the full story.
YOUR COVID-19 VACCINE QUESTIONS — ANSWERED: We've compiled a list of who can currently get vaccinated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, plus answers to common questions and links to resources. Read the full Q&A.
COVID-19 TESTS AVAILABLE BY APPOINTMENT: Santa Clara County is operating appointment-only COVID-19 test sites on a rotating basis. View the full list.
The Food and Drug Administration approved booster COVID-19 vaccine doses Wednesday for people who previously received the Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well as the mixing of booster doses, regardless of which vaccine brand a person initially received.
Booster vaccines had previously been authorized for a swath of people — including those ages 65 and up and people ages 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions — who were originally immunized with the two-dose vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
As of Wednesday, eligible vaccinated people can get a booster dose regardless of which vaccine they received first, provided that it has been at least six months since their primary series of the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or at least two months after their first Johnson & Johnson vaccination.
In addition, the FDA said it will be safe and effective for people to "mix and match" by receiving a booster dose of a vaccine, such as Moderna, if they received a different vaccine first.
Moderna boosters, according to the FDA's authorization, will be half the dose administered during the initial two-dose series while Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson boosters will be the same dose size as their initial shots.
"As the pandemic continues to impact the country, science has shown that vaccination continues to be the safest and most effective way to prevent COVID-19, including the most serious consequences of the disease, such as hospitalization and death," acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.
The FDA and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began approving the use of booster vaccines in August — at that time, only for people with weakened or compromised immune systems — as data has shown vaccine-triggered immune responses tend to decline in the months following initial administration.
While the three available vaccines remain highly effective at preventing serious COVID-19 illness and death, public health officials at all levels have argued that preemptively boosting the immune responses of those at particularly high-risk for serious illness, such as immunocompromised people and nursing home residents, will maximize protection against existing and potential variants of the virus, which could become more contagious and even circumvent vaccine protections.
Eventually, some officials have argued, COVID-19 vaccine boosters could become an annual offering similar to annual flu shots rather than one-time administrations.
"The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated," Woodcock said. "The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease."
While Woodcock and other federal public health officials have endorsed the idea, regulators have so far shied away from authorizing follow-up vaccine doses for all vaccinated adults, arguing that targeted administration of booster doses is more apt for the pandemic's current landscape.
Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement that boosters for additional demographics remain a possibility.
"We will work to accrue additional data as quickly as possible to further assess the benefits and risks of the use of booster doses in additional populations and plan to update the healthcare community and public with our determination in the coming weeks," he said.
San Mateo County is a step closer to reaching the goal of releasing the mask mandate set forth by eight counties and the city of Berkeley on Oct. 7, Chief of Health Louise Rogers said at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The county has a COVID-19 testing positivity rate of 0.9% overall and 1.3% positivity for the lowest quarter of people represented in the state's Healthy Places Index, which measures health factors among the county's most economically disadvantaged.
The lower positivity rate is one of three metrics the county will require under the multicounty criteria prior to relaxing the indoor mask mandate. To lift the mandate, a county would need to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's criteria for the moderate yellow tier for COVID-19 transmission for three consecutive weeks; 80% of the county's total population has had both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or one shot of Janssen/Johnson & Johnson's vaccine; and hospital rates must remain low and stable. Alternatively, the mandate could be lifted if eight weeks have passed since a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by federal and state authorities for 5- to 11-year-olds.
The county corrected its data and found it has a larger percentage of unvaccinated people who are eligible to receive the vaccine than it previously tallied, at 67,000. Rogers said 72.5% of the total county population is fully vaccinated. The county's vaccination rates far surpass the nation's average, which is 57% for the fully vaccinated eligible population, she noted.
Dr. Anand Chabra, San Mateo County Health's COVID-19 mass vaccination section chief, said that Pfizer-BioNTech is asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines to be given to children ages 5 to 11 and a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 26. If approved, the vaccines could be available sometime in November, he said.
For coverage by subject — how the virus is affecting public health, residents, schools, cities, businesses, nonprofits, arts groups, etc. — please go to our Wakelet page. View an archive of previous updates here.