COVID cases are on the rise again, as are hospitalizations and deaths. Let’s talk about what you need to know.
What is responsible for the current rise in COVID-19 cases?
The latest subvariant of the omicron COVID variant is called BA.5. It is responsible for 65% of all new COVID infections in the US right now.
Why is BA.5 more concerning than other variants?
- This subvariant is more contagious than the original omicron variant and more contagious than other subvariants that we have seen in the past.
- It is incredibly good at evading our body’s immune mechanisms.
- It is infecting people who have had a COVID infection just 3 months ago.
- It is infecting people who have been vaccinated and boosted.
- It is causing more severe disease than some of the other recent variants of the COVID virus, particularly in those individuals who have not been vaccinated and boosted.
Since 7/4/22, 400-525 Americans have died every day from COVID-19 infections, 3,323 COVID deaths in the past week. This is increased from 200-400 Americans dying every day for the time period between 5/15/22 to 7/3/22.
Is there any good news about BA.5?
There is one bit of good news. People who have been vaccinated and boosted who are infected by the BA.5 subvariant are usually not getting severely ill.
What can you do to protect yourself?
The best way to protect yourself is to be vaccinated and boosted.
If you are over 50, you should have had a second booster. If you have not had a booster in the last 6 months, you need to get that as soon as you can.
For those under 50, the FDA is considering whether a second booster should be given. They should make that decision soon.
You should also consider wearing a mask in indoor spaces, especially in areas that are crowded, until the case counts start to come down again.
What new vaccines should you know about?
Novavax – The FDA has just authorized the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine and the CDC is expected to formally recommend it within the next few days. It is a more traditional vaccine. It works by giving the immune system a small piece of the virus grown in the lab to stimulate the immune response. Several traditional childhood vaccines have used this technology for years. This vaccine has been shown to be highly effective in protecting against moderate-to-severe disease.
Omicron variant vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have all been working on COVID vaccines that target the Omicron variant, some even focused on the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. These vaccines are expected to be available this fall. These would be considered “boosters” that would give a broader protection, based on the more recent variants, while still boosting your overall protection against COVID-19.
For all the latest information about COVID vaccines, use this link.
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor