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Omicron subvariant BA.5: Can booster shots offer protection?

BA.5 has the ability to evade antibodies, but being fully vaccinated will still lower the severity of infection

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An illustration of COVID-19

Illustration by Michelle Budge, Deseret News

Omicron subvariants are still rapidly spreading, including the newly dominant BA.5 and its sister strain, BA.4.

These immunity-evading strains make up more than 70% of cases, meaning those with previous infections or vaccinations aren’t safe from catching COVID-19, according to experts.

Meanwhile, new cases as of July 12 hovered around 180,000 in the United States. However, this number is much lower than the actual number of new infections, due to the popularity of at-home tests and lack of reporting. The number of new cases may actually be seven times higher, per CNN.

Omicron subvariant ‘centaurus’ from India found in California

The heavily mutated BA.2.75, also known as centaurus, has arrived in Los Angeles, California. The strain, first discovered in India, is known to have more mutations than other omicron lineages, per Deadline.

According to Deadline, this subvariant has already been spotted in 14 countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Cases so far have popped up in California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington.

Should you still get a booster shot?

Dealing with vaccine-evading COVID-19 mutations is challenging, but most preliminary studies show that antibodies from previous infection or vaccination can reduce the severity of the infection.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent news briefing that those over the age of 50 are recommended to stay up to date with their vaccines, which includes two booster shots. 

When should you to get a booster shot?

The CDC recommends a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna booster at least five months after the two primary doses, while those who are immunocompromised can wait a minimum of three months after the initial vaccination series.

What are the omicron symptoms to look out for?

As I previously reported, omicron subvariants have a shorter incubation period, which is why the symptoms may appear earlier.

The worst symptom typically experienced by patients has been a severe sore throat. The most common omicron-related symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.