Two Omicron subvariants, BA4 and BA5, appear to escape antibody responses among both people who had previous Covid-19 infection and those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted, according to new data from researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, of Harvard Medical School.
However, vaccination against COVID-19 is still expected to protect against severe illness, and researchers are working toward updating shots to elicit a stronger immune response against the variants.
“Our data suggest that these new Omicron subvariants will likely be able to lead to surges of infections in populations with high levels of vaccine immunity as well as natural BA1 and BA2 immunity,” Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, wrote in an email to CNN. “However, it is likely that vaccine immunity will still provide substantial protection against severe disease with BA4 and BA5.”
Scientists at Columbia University have also found that BA.4 and BA.5 viruses were more likely to escape antibodies from the blood of fully vaccinated and boosted adults compared with other Omicron subvariants, raising the risk of vaccine-breakthrough Covid-19 infections.
BA.4 and BA.5 caused an estimated 35% of new Covid-19 infections in the U.S. last week, up from 29% the week before, according to data shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. They are the fastest spreading variants to date and are expected to dominate COVID transmission within the next few weeks.
Read more from CNN here.
In other news:
- Roughly 20 million U.S. adults are currently living with long COVID symptoms, citing fatigue, chest pain, and difficulty breathing, among others, as long-term health problems lasting at least three months after infection. You can read more from TIME here.