What's The Best Protection Against The BA.5 Subvariant?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the transmissible virus is keeping scientists and medical experts on their toes with new variants spreading worldwide. In early 2022, the Omicron variant was responsible for a new surge in case numbers, reinfecting millions of Americans who had already received a COVID-19 vaccine (per CNN). Experts are now noticing another wave of cases due to a subvariant showing its dominance called BA.5.

According to the latest data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BA.5 has surpassed preceding COVID-19 variants in just over two months. The subvariant is believed to cause two out of every three new COVID-19 infections in the United States.

Medical experts are still trying to determine how BA.5 compares to other COVID variants. "We do not know about the clinical severity of BA.4 and BA.5 in comparison to our other Omicron subvariants," says CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, during a White House briefing (via CNN).

"But we do know it to be more transmissible and more immune-evading. People with prior infection, even with BA.1 and BA.2, are likely still at risk for BA.4 or BA.5."

With yet another resurgence of a new variant, medical experts are reminding the public that reinfections are possible, despite vaccinations or immunity protection from prior infections (per Healthline).

Protecting against the BA.5 subvariant

With a new variant comes new calls for up-to-date vaccines, booster shots, and safety precautions like masking while indoors when there are large groups of people, according to National Public Radio (NPR). So far, scientists say there's no evidence that the BA.5 variant causes more severe illness than previous variants, but it is believed to be more contagious.

"Not only is it more infectious, but your prior immunity doesn't count for as much as it used to," Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, tells NPR. He adds, "And that means that the old saw that, 'I just had COVID a month ago, and so I have COVID immunity superpowers, I'm not going to get it again' — that no longer holds."

Infectious disease experts suggest that ultimately it's not a cause for concern. The overall impact of BA.5 is expected to be less deadly, partly because the country is in a better position to manage it with access to vaccines and care.