Bay Area clinics pause vaccinations, awaiting new omicron-targeted booster shots

Bay Area health officials in some counties decided to temporarily suspend their vaccination clinics, in order to wait for the new COVID booster shots that were approved by federal authorities Thursday.

"Our current vaccines that we have available right now are only available for people who are trying to get their first vaccines their primary series. They can no longer be used as a booster," said Lizelle Lirio de Luna, director of the San Mateo County Family Health Services.

Alameda, Marin, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties, as well as CVS pharmacies, decided to wait for their orders of the new Pfizer and Moderna shots. 

The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention approved two new COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, which have been modified to target the widespread omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants that make up the majority of infections in the United States now. 

Pfizer and Moderna developed the bivalent booster shots using the same technology as their original COVID vaccines.

"Both of them will be available. Pfizer will be available for people who are 12 years and older. Moderna will be available for 18 years and older," said Lirio de Luna.

The CDC says there are no shots currently approved for children under the age of 12.

California has put in an order for 1 million doses next week.

The goal is to get as many people boosted as possible so there isn't another fall and winter covid surge.

The new boosters were approved based on data from studies on mice, not humans. Experts say safety, however, should not be a problem.

"We do this every year with the influenza vaccine. We don't test it in humans. We test it in animals and if it looks fine, we go ahead with that. Decades we've been doing that. I think it's fine about safety," said Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

The CDC recommends people receive the new booster at least 2 months after their last shot.

Some say waiting 3-4 months gets the most effective antibody response, but Swartzberg says an important consideration is timing the shot to get ahead of any winter surge.

"The last two winters with COVID, they were disasters for us, threw so many people in the hospital, and killed so many people," said Dr. Swartzberg.

Those who have recently had COVID-19 do receive some protection when they recover, according to Dr. Swartzberg, so that could affect the timing of their next booster.

"Having COVID is like getting a booster shot," said  Swartzberg, "Most people should wait about 3 months after you've had COVID to get this new booster."

Only about half of all vaccinated Americans got the previous booster shots.

Some say they plan to get the new booster shots.

"My mother does that, she's at a higher risk to get it...and I feel comfortable to do it," said Myriam Mercado, a San Mateo resident.

"Anything that works to help keep the virus down to keep COVID 19 at a level to where we can maintain and move on with our lives," said Finau Mau, a resident of San Mateo, "Because we're sick of it everybody's sick of it, you know?"

Pfizer said it expected to deliver 3 million doses to vaccination sites around the country by Tuesday.

The U.S. still is experiencing tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases and about 500 deaths every day -- even before an expected new winter wave.

Since April, hospitalization rates in people over age 65 have jumped, according to the CDC.

To check on availability of vaccine appointments for the new booster shot, you can go to the website. 

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or