New COVID subvariant spreads rapidly in Northeast, sparking concerns it evades vaccines

Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have dominated COVID-19 cases in the United States over the past few months. However, a new class of COVID subvariants is already emerging, and one in particular is receiving a lot of attention. It goes by the name of XBB, or Gryphon, and there’s a possibility it will surpass all other systems.

According to William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, XBB is generating a lot of buzz because it spreads quickly and appears to be able to evade immunity that people have developed from having a prior COVID-19 infection or from receiving the vaccine. We still have a lot to learn, adds Dr. Schaffner, adding that “it’s early days.”

What is the XBB COVID variant?

Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo in New York, adds that XBB is one of the “new class” of Omicron variations that are now spreading quickly. He lists these as BQ.1.1, BQ.1, BQ.1.3, BA.2.3.20, and XBB.

Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, notes that “XBB is a hybrid version of two strains of the BA.2 form of Omicron.” He continues, “It’s spreading effectively in Singapore right now.”

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health, the variation was discovered for the first time in India in August 2022 and has since been found in more than 17 nations, including Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Japan, and the United States.

According to a pre-print study by researchers in China, XBB is expected to have the strongest capacity to resist antibody defences among these recently revealed COVID variants. According to this study, the new Omicron strains, specifically XBB, “are the most antibody-evasive strain tested, far exceeding BA.5 and approaching SARS-CoV-1 level.” If you’re not aware with it, SARS-CoV-1 is the coronavirus strain that causes SARS, a respiratory virus that can result in serious disease.

Meaning that, in contrast to earlier strains of COVID-19, the vaccination and having previously received COVID-19 are not believed to provide as much protection against XBB. According to the pre-print study, anti-XBB medications like Evusheld and bebtelovimab may also not be particularly effective.

“These variants are evolving to evade protection,” claims Dr. Russo. Despite being “imperfect against preventing infection,” the bivalent booster is “likely going to be protective against severe disease” in XBB patients, according to Dr. Russo.

But don’t freak out. It’s crucial to understand that vaccination protection is not all or nothing when it comes to evasion, according to Dr. Adalja. “Vaccine protection against what matters most—severe disease—remains intact even with immune-evasive variants.”

The XBB subvariant has how much contagion?

XBB is regarded as being extremely infectious, just as other Omicron strains. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health, the variation currently accounts for 54% of COVID-19 cases there, up from 22% the week prior.

The Ministry of Health in Singapore states that XBB is “at least as transmissible as currently circulating variants” but adds that “there is no evidence that XBB causes more severe illness.”

The XBB subvariant will peak when?

XBB currently has a number of unanswered questions. According to CDC statistics, BA.5 and BA.4.6 continue to be the most prevalent variations in the United States despite the fact that it has been found there.

According to Dr. Adalja, additional varieties are also beginning to proliferate. It is unknown which, if any, will supplant BA.4.6 and BA.5 in the United States. It’s uncertain if it—or another similar variation like BQ.1.1—will become prevalent in the United States, but it’s likely to spread there to some extent, according to him.

According to Dr. Schaffner, there is “some concern” regarding the growth in XBB and other variations. It’s critical to keep an eye on what transpires over the next weeks, he asserts.

As of the time of publication, this article is true. However, some of the material could have changed since it was last updated due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s fast evolution and the scientific community’s growing understanding of the unique coronavirus. While we make every effort to keep all of our stories current, you may also stay up to date on the most recent information by visiting the websites of the CDC, WHO, and your local public health agency. A doctor should always be consulted for medical advice.

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Why do we need to shoot again?

The FDA advised Americans to anticipate receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccination this autumn, just as they do with an updated flu shot. The coronavirus continues to produce novel kinds despite the fact that the majority of the population has either had an infection or received at least one round of immunisations.

Currently available in the United States are combination injections made by Pfizer and Moderna that combine the original strain with defence against the two most prevalent omicron variations from the previous year, known as BA.4 and BA.5. However, just 17% of Americans took the initiative to use a combination booster.

And while the FDA did let seniors and other high-risk individuals to have an additional booster dosage this spring, the majority of people would have had their final injection for several months by fall.

Even if XBB variations have taken control, those currently accessible doses nevertheless aid in the prevention of serious illness and death. But over time, immunity gradually dwindles and was only effective against lesser infections before the virus, unavoidably, mutated once again.

Although cases have decreased, Dr. Peter Marks, FDA’s director of vaccine development, warned that the virus might pose a serious threat next winter.

“We’re worried that there might be another wave of COVID-19 at a time when the virus has further evolved, population immunity has diminished even more, and we’re staying indoors for the winter,” he added.

What you should know is as follows:

Why another round of shots?

The FDA advised Americans to anticipate receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccination this autumn, just as they do with an updated flu shot. The coronavirus continues to produce novel kinds despite the fact that the majority of the population has either had an infection or received at least one round of immunisations.

Currently available in the United States are combination injections made by Pfizer and Moderna that combine the original strain with defence against the two most prevalent omicron variations from the previous year, known as BA.4 and BA.5. However, just 17% of Americans took the initiative to use a combination booster.

And while the FDA did let seniors and other high-risk individuals to have an additional booster dosage this spring, the majority of people would have had their final injection for several months by fall.

Even if XBB variations have taken control, those currently accessible doses nevertheless aid in the prevention of serious illness and death. But over time, immunity gradually dwindles and was only effective against lesser infections before the virus, unavoidably, mutated once again.

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