If you’re like the majority of Americans — their estimated 60% or more, According to government data — You already have COVID-19.
And if you’re like most of those Americans, you had it quite recently — during the huge waves of Omicrons that swallowed the United States during the winter vacation.
The question now is whether you are ready to re-infect — this time a new subvariant that not only avoids some of the existing immunity, but may also be more resistant to critical treatments. By.
Two mutants that match that description, BA.4 and BA.5, are currently taking off in the United States — and experts say they were already in previous versions of Omicron (BA.2 and BA.2.12. 1) is said to be defeated immediately Causes hundreds of thousands New (and new Few reports) Infects every day for weeks.
“The next chapter in the pandemic is … the story of antigenic escape,” says Dr. Eric Topol, recently founder of the Scripps Institution of Translation. predict..
And experts say the United States hasn’t done enough to catch up.
Once upon a time, reinfection was rare. Some scientists even suspected that innate immunity from previous cases of COVID would prevent most people from being infected again. Vaccination blocked more than 90% of infections.
However, Delta broke that immune barrier, and Omicron BA.1 broke it, boosting infection rates, including breakthrough infections, to record highs.
Later, BA.4 and BA.5 evolved to fend off the vast amount of immunity elicited by the original Omicron. And last month, the proportion of cases in the United States was approximate. Double every 7 days, Shows exponential growth.At the same time, the US reinfection rate is displayed Rise.. By July, BA.4 and BA.5 will be Likely to be dominant nationwide..
The implications of faster-than-expected evolution of Omicron are becoming apparent, from new variants that avoid previous immunity to the rapid succession of immune-avoidance subvariants acquired from previous versions of Omicron.
The good news is that overall, COVID is less deadly than ever. Despite rising case levels, the number of US COVID patients in the intensive care unit is lower than at any other time in the pandemic, and the national mortality rate (about 300 per day) is unprecedented. It is so low. Acquired immunity, multiple vaccinations, and improved treatment options have helped — much more.
But there is some worrisome news.The latest research suggests that Favorable mutations in peaplomers of BA.4 and BA.5 It could cut off some of the progress we have made against serious illnesses. Among those preliminary findings:
In combination with the decline of vaccine protection Disappointing booster intake among the elderlyThe virus’s new trajectory-towards greater infectivity, avoidance, and perhaps pathogenicity-may affect vulnerable Americans in the coming months.
For example, Portugal is currently experiencing a big wave of BA.5, COVID deaths are once again approaching winter Omicron highsSouth Africa’s official COVID deaths are 20 points higher than the United States, even though 87% of Portugal’s population is fully vaccinated. It was pretty flat during the country’s recent BA.4 spikes (But Mortality has skyrocketed). In South Africa, only 5% of the population is over 65 years old. In Portugal, that number is 23%. The United States, where the elderly make up 16% of the population, is demographically very similar to Portugal. Even small recessions in immunodeficiency and the protection of the elderly can have real implications.
The same is true for “new normal” with regular reinfections — this seems to be where the United States is heading. The drawbacks of COVID are not limited to dying. For one thing, long COVIDs are real — and the more often the virus infects you, the more likely it is to cause protracted symptoms.
Then there are all the usual drawbacks of getting sick: missing school, missing a job, losing wages, managing childcare, canceling events, and spreading the virus to other more vulnerable people. Each of these problems is much less contagious than COVID and is large and over and over again, in contrast to the more modest and manageable scales such as influenza, which tends to reinfect us. When it also occurs, it becomes much more problematic. Every few years..
Americans are already aware of how destructive and dangerous regular reinfections are. According to the latest Yahoo News / YouGov pollThe majority (61%) say that “in the future, if they are infected with the coronavirus multiple times a year”, it will be a very (29%) or slightly larger problem (32%). (27%) say it’s not a big problem (17%) or it’s not a problem at all (10%).
So far, a small number of Americans (only 28%) believe they are more likely to be re-infected frequently, and experts have further met expectations by reducing the odds that are currently rising rapidly. It states that it is still possible to get it done. But they also say that the United States is out of date.
Last week, Moderna partially based on Omicron BA.1 (now extinct in the US), rather than BA.4 and BA.5 (accounting for 13% of cases and climbing), as the main candidates for fall booster shots. Announced that it is. ..As the New York Times put it“I’m worried that the virus is evolving so rapidly that it may be out of pace. [our] The ability to change vaccines, at least as long as the United States relies on human clinical trials for results. To ensure that boosters remain effective, perhaps faster methods based on data from laboratory tests and tests involving mice or other animals may be needed.
Next-generation vaccines may also be needed to minimize infection. As Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, Professor of Immunology, University of Arizona I have written On Monday of the New York Times, “Vaccines received in the nose or mouth place memory cells and antibodies near the site of infection, Completely prevent symptoms and perhaps even infections.. Some of these types of vaccines are currently in clinical trials and may be available soon. “
Meanwhile, Bhattacharya went on to say, “A group of researchers is also studying a single vaccine that may work against all versions of the new coronavirus. These vaccines prevent mutations. Because of their purpose, it makes it difficult for the virus to surpass the immune system. They have Showed great expectations In animal experiments. Some are in clinical trials and may be available in the coming years. “
Improving ventilation may also help. “If the waves occur every few months, we need to do something * sustainable * to reduce the infection,” said COVID expert Professor Christina Pagel recently. Tweet““Opportunities once every few decades” “now exist to sustainably improve public and private indoor air quality... “
“It’s not just masks, especially if it’s not practical in restaurants / pubs / gyms,” says UK-based Pagel. Added.. “We have a solution!”
However, the United States has not funded Operation Warp Speed for next-generation vaccines or improving air quality.Instead, Congressional Republicans are blocking just $ 10 billion in new COVID spending to the White House. Reduce money for testing That’s why the United States is ready to buy the bare minimum this fall, including existing pills and vaccines.
What the combination of obstruction and lack of ambition represents Topol When others It is expressed as “COVID self-satisfaction”. But if the sudden rise in BA.4 and BA.5 tells us something, it means that COVID is not happy with us.
A new version of the virus will never bring the United States back to square. But they will continue to make the escape from the pandemic more destructive and dangerous than necessary.
How does vaccination rate affect modern COVID surges? Check out this explainer on Yahoo Immersive to find out.