A FDA committee is recommending that the COVID-19 vaccines available this fall target the XBB lineage of the Omicron novel coronavirus variant.
The Food & Drug Administration proposed in January that annual COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are offered that target circulating variants, similar to the strategy used for flu vaccinations.
“Based on the totality of the evidence, FDA has advised manufacturers who will be updating their COVID-19 vaccines, that they should develop vaccines with a monovalent XBB 1.5 composition,” the FDA said last week.
The XBB.1.5 variant of the novel coronavirus is the one most commonly circulating in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Pfizer, one of the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, said it could produce vaccines targeting the XBB.1.5 strain by the end of July, according to news reports.
COVID-19 vaccination rates are now measured by the number of people who have received their primary series and the number of people who are “up to date,” which can mean additional doses and booster shots.
In Santa Barbara County, 70.1% of residents have received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines (318,051 of 453,498 eligible people) and 19.6% of people are up to date.
Latest Local COVID Data
Since the end of the federal health emergency on May 11, public health departments are no longer reporting the number of new positive cases.
The Santa Barbara County and state public health departments said they would pause hospitalization reporting while they transitioned to a new system, and they haven’t updated the numbers for about six weeks.
Six COVID-19-related deaths of county residents have been reported since that May date. As of Monday, 776 deaths have been reported in the county since the start of the pandemic.
California reports a daily average of seven people dying of COVID-19-related causes.
Wastewater surveillance and COVID-19-related hospitalizations are useful ways to track the prevalence of the novel coronavirus in communities, according to Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease physician at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
The ability to track disease through wastewater surveillance “has accelerated faster than I think any of us ever imagined,” Fitzgibbons said in April.
“Wastewater is a huge part of the way to monitor this going forward.”
Wastewater surveillance shows the community levels of COVID-19 decreasing in the Lompoc area in the past two weeks, and increasing in the city of Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles area in the past two weeks.
Public health officials in Los Angeles are hopeful the region will avoid a summer surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths like it’s seen in the past three years, since metrics have not started to surge, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
Another COVID-19 metric used to track its prevalence is testing positivity, which measures the rate of tests with positive results.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, these rates (and the number of infected people) have increased for winter and summer surges.
Last year, test positivity rates in Santa Barbara County steadily increased from mid-April through July, peaked in early August at 16%, and then decreased steadily.
The current rate reported in the county is 5.3% testing positivity (5.3% of tests come back positive) and the statewide rate is 5.7%.