Those who were infected with COVID-19 during the first Omicron wave won’t have much protection against the latest highly-infectious BA.5 subvariant, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a Tuesday White House briefing.
“Omicron as a broad category has been particularly problematic,” Fauci said at the briefing while discussing the new BA.5 variant, which he said currently accounts for 64% of cases in the US
“Each successive variant has a bit of a transmission advantage over the prior one,” Fauci — the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of America’s top infectious disease experts — explained.
Those infected in the first waves “really don’t have a lot of good protection” against the latest BA.5 subvariant, Fauci said.
“People with prior infection, even with BA.1 or BA.2, are likely still at risk for BA.4 or BA.5,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky added.
This new variant, he said, “substantially evades” antibodies from both vaccination and prior infection.
But vaccination and up-to-date booster shots have been shown to substantially reduce the risk of ending up in the ICU with serious infection, health experts said. And BA.5 is not associated with greater disease severity or hospitalization compared to earlier Omicron sub-variants.
Fauci recognized that BA.5 — and future COVID-19 variants — will continue to appear as long as the virus spreads unchecked.
“Variants will continue to emerge if the virus circulates globally and in this county. We should not let it disrupt our lives, but we cannot deny that it is a reality that we need to deal with,” he said.