BA.5 is now the dominant COVID-19 subvariant in the United States. Here’s why it’s capable of causing more reinfections, according to experts.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, new variants and subvariants have emerged as the virus continues to mutate.
President Joe Biden’s administration said on July 12 that omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 account for 80% of COVID-19 cases in the country, “with BA.5 accounting for the majority of cases.”
“After successfully avoiding Covid for 2.5 years, my husband tested positive for Covid 3 weeks ago, cleared the infection and tested positive again yesterday. 3 weeks! #BA5 immune evasion is no hoax,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Is the BA.5 omicron subvariant of COVID-19 more likely than previous subvariants to reinfect humans?
Yes, the BA.5 omicron subvariant of COVID-19 is more likely than previous subvariants to reinfect humans.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Omicron variant emerged in late 2021, leading to a wave of new COVID-19 infections. Since then, health experts have identified several subvariants of omicron – including BA.5. Although data suggest that Omicron generally causes less severe disease than previous variants, it spreads more easily and often evades the immune response in people previously infected or vaccinated with COVID-19.
BA.5 is the most contagious variant or subvariant of COVID-19 we have seen so far, Maria Van Kherkove, World Health Organization (WHO) chief technical officer for COVID-19. said during a recent press conference.
A recent study looked at the effectiveness of previous COVID-19 infection in preventing new infection by the virus, a WHO spokesman said.
The study showed that those who had recovered from COVID-19 infection had 90 percent immune protection from reinfection before omicron. When the omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 became dominant, the immune protection against a previous infection dropped to an estimated 50% according to the WHO.
Well, prior infection only gives a person an estimated 40% immune protection from subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 and BA.5.
BA.5 accounted for an estimated 65% of U.S. COVID-19 cases from July 3-9, compared with about 16% of cases attributed to the BA.4 subvariant, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The BA.5 subvariant is “immune avoidant,” meaning people with a previous infection or vaccination “are likely still at BA.4 or BA.5 risk,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing by the White House COVID-19 Response Team on July 12.
Mutations in both the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants appear to help them “evade immunity from both vaccination and infection,” said Sheldon Campbell, a professor of laboratory medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.
Joseph Fauver, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Nebraska’s College of Public Health, told VERIFY that the BA.5 subvariant is “perfectly capable of causing reinfection” and has already done so.
Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, also evaluated antibody responses to multiple Omicron subvariants in 27 people who received their primary COVID-19 vaccine series and booster and in 27 people who had previously contracted COVID had infected. 19. Her research was published in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine on June 22, 2022.
They found that antibody responses to BA.4 and BA.5 were about three times lower than to Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2, meaning that BA.4 and BA.5 were significantly more likely to generate immunity escape from both vaccines or previous infection.
There is currently no evidence that BA.4 or BA.5 cause more severe disease compared to other omicron subvariants, according to public health leaders and experts speaking to VERIFY.
Although the CDC is still collecting data, “vaccine efficacy against serious illness and death remains high” for omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.5, Walensky said.
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