What to Know About the New BA.2.12.1 Variant in the US

IIt’s only been about six months since the Omicron variant appeared and changed the landscape of the pandemic, causing the number of cases to skyrocket and cause breakthrough infection even among those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. The virus continues to keep scientists guessing, mutating into sub-variants almost as quickly as researchers can name them.

First there’s BA.2, became dominant in America earlier this spring. Now, another Omicron descendant called BA.2.12.1 is accounting for an increasing share of US cases — about 36% of samples sequenced in the week ending April 30, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, average daily diagnoses have nearly doubled nationally since early April.

Two other subsections of Omicron, known as BA.4 and BA.5, are also spreading in South Africa, where they were first identifiedand has been detected in other countries around the world.

It always takes time to learn how important the appearance of new variations is. Early data suggest that relatives of the new Omicron spread faster than BA.2, but they do not appear to cause more severe disease, the World Health Organization wrote in a report published April 27. CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently stated a similar reassuring message to reporterssays that — although more research is needed — “we continue to believe that vaccinated individuals, and especially those who are boosted, continue to have strong protection against serious illness, including even from BA.2.12.1.”

However, some preliminary, not peer-reviewed studies—a Chinese word and one from South Africa—Thanks these newer Omicron sub-variants are better than earlier strains at dodging immunity provided by vaccines and previous infections. That means even people with the original strain of Omicron could be at risk of reinfection – but, like former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb tweeted yesterdaypeople who are fully vaccinated and Recent COVID-19 seems to be more strongly protected.

It is not surprising that the virus continues to mutate; Scientists have long predicted that would be the case. But as BA.2.12.1 works across the United States, it should be reminded that the ongoing pandemic is fraught with twists and turns. Everything we know about the virus and immunity to it is subject to change. All it needs is a new variant.

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Write letter for Jamie Ducharme at [email protected].

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