The new omicron strains, BA.4 and BA.5, pose a serious threat, according to Dr. David Ho, a microbiology and immunology professor at Columbia University.
The new COVID: Despite the fact that 19 infections are decreasing in some states, such as Michigan and Vermont, experts predict a difficult summer as new omicron variants emerge.
CNN reports that the subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are gaining ground on the dominant strains BA.2.12.1 and BA.2, accounting for 6% to 7% of new infections in the US last month.
“It’s a serious threat,” said Dr. David Ho, a microbiology and immunology professor at New York’s Columbia University.
“A month ago it was 0.02 per cent.”
What is the significance of this? Antibodies are far less effective against the new sub variants than they were against the original omicron strain, according to preliminary research at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa.
This is due to the BA.4 and BA.5 strains carrying several mutations that help them overcome the barrier of previous vaccinations or infections, according to VaccinesWork, a digital platform covering immunization news.
The spread of the strains is concerning, as they dominate new infections in South Africa while appearing rapidly elsewhere.
According to a UK Security Agency report, the two new sub variants had been detected in Austria, the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and Botswana by late April.
However, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that these mutations cause a more severe illness at the moment.
The BA.4 and BA.5 strains were designated as “variants of concern” by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control on May 12.
The Food and Drug Administration has yet to make a decision on a new COVID-19 vaccine design in the hopes of providing people with “the longest duration of a high level of protection” without having to be boosted or worry about another surge every few months, according to ABC News.
“It’s unclear what the vaccine mix will be in the fall,” said Celine Gounder, a KHN editor and infectious disease specialist.
“However, given the differences between BA.4 and BA.5, it’s difficult to see how it will outperform the original vaccine.”
Current situation in South Africa: Despite the fact that 97 percent of the population had antibodies from previous infection or vaccination, the country recently experienced a fifth COVID-19 wave.