BA.5 reinfects former COVID patients as health officials push for updated vaccine

Jul 8, 2022, 11:17 AM

(Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images)...

(Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images)

Health officials are warning people of the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, with the latter becoming the dominant variant in the U.S.

“We’re a little behind the curve on the West Coast, at least from the latest data we have, it looks like BA.5 is coming up,” said Dr. Keith Jerome, the Director of the University of Washington Virology Lab. “But we have an odd situation where four different variants are all circulating at the same time, and not in quite equal numbers, but a lot of each. And that’s BA.2, the BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 are all going. I think BA.5 is going to win over the next couple of months, but we’ll see. So if you get COVID right now, you’re not going to know what you have.”

The BA.5 subvariant accounts for 54% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

UW researchers: ‘The pandemic phase of COVID-19 is gone’

Health officials are preparing for a fresh wave of infections in the U.S. driven by the most contagious COVID-19 variant. Even people who have recently recovered from the virus are susceptible to becoming ill with the BA.5 omicron subvariant, officials said.

Independent scientists and physicians endorsed an updated omicron vaccine by a 19-2 vote. A new booster is expected to roll out by the fall of this year.

“For some of us, that’ll be our fifth shot. So the booster that is going to be made is new and it will contain the original, what we call the ancestral Coronavirus, but it’ll also contain BA.4- and BA.5-like sequences in them,” Jerome said. The idea is that if more variants come up, there is a good chance that they’ll rise from BA.4 or BA.5, that’s not a guarantee, but we’re hedging our bets that what new variants might come are most likely to be covered by one of those three variants, and you’ll be better protected if you get this new Omicron specific booster.”

Recent cases of monkeypox have also been identified in King County, suggesting that the virus was transmitted locally, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“This is one thing we’ve all come to appreciate more from COVID. I think it’s becoming more obvious to everybody that you don’t necessarily detect every infection,” Jerome said. “The virus is there, there’ve been several hundred cases in the U.S., and the incidence seems to be growing. So it’s something that people should keep on their radar screens.”

Monkeypox is spread through close physical contact. As of July 6, Public Health officials have identified nine cases in King County.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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BA.5 reinfects former COVID patients as health officials push for updated vaccine