Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines
Stealth Omicron Could Cause More Cases After BA.1 Wave: WHO Expert Maria Van Kerkhove Photo by Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

Recent studies show that Covid-19 Omicron subvariants are able to escape antibodies from people who have had previous Covid-19 infections as well as those who have received complete vaccine doses and boosters. Data provided by researchers from the Harvard Medical School at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported that Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 substantially escape neutralizing antibodies that are induced by a previous infection and vaccination.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported that multiple versions of the Omicron variant that causes acute respiratory syndrome has emerged. Covid-19 cases in the United States are currently being dominated by subvariant BA.2.12 while subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are reportedly dominant in South Africa.

Based on recent evaluations, participants of the study elicited lower levels of neutralizing antibodies against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants after two weeks of vaccination and booster doses compared with the responses from the original coronavirus strain.

An email sent to CNN by the research author and director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, Dr. Dan Barouch wrote, "We observed 3-fold reductions of neutralizing antibody titers induced by vaccination and infection against BA4 and BA5 compared with BA1 and BA2, which are already substantially lower than the original COVID-19 variants.”

Barouch highlighted their data findings that suggested Omicron subvariants will likely be the leading strains in the surge of infections and breakthrough cases of Covid in populations with a high level of natural and vaccine immunity to BA1 and BA2.

"However, it is likely that vaccine immunity will still provide substantial protection against severe disease with BA4 and BA5,” he added.

Meanwhile, separate research by scientists from Columbia University has also backed up findings that BA.4 and BA.5 virus strains are more likely to escape antibodies from fully vaccinated and boosted adults. This raises concern over the increased risk of vaccine-breakthrough infections.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 35% of new Covid infections in the U.S. were caused by BA.4 and BA.5 last week compared to just 29% from the week before. The CDC warns these subvariants will dominate most infections in the U.S., UK and the rest of Europe in the coming weeks.

Coronavirus, COVID-19
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