Omicron’s Variants Elude Antibodies From Previous Infection: Study

In South Africa — where the BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages of the covid omicron variant are taking hold — researchers find that those subvariants can evade antibodies from an earlier infection. But they’re less successful at dodging vaccine protection. Meanwhile, a former U.S. official warns of the likelihood of a summer surge.

Omicron Sublineages Evade Antibodies From Earlier Infections

New omicron sublineages show an ability to evade antibodies from earlier infection and vaccination, a South African laboratory study has found. The findings could signal a fresh wave of infections by the BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages of the omicron variant that were discovered this month in South Africa. Blood samples from people who had been infected with the original omicron variant saw an almost eightfold drop in neutralizing antibody production when tested against the BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages, the study, led by the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa, showed. (Sguazzin, 4/30)

COVID’s New Omicron Sub-Lineages Can Dodge Immunity From Past Infection, Study Says

Two new sublineages of the Omicron coronavirus variant can dodge antibodies from earlier infection well enough to trigger a new wave, but are far less able to thrive in the blood of people vaccinated against COVID-19, South African scientists have found. The scientists from multiple institutions were examining Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages – which the World Health Organization last month added to its monitoring list. They took blood samples from 39 participants previously infected by Omicron when it first showed up at the end of last year. (Cocks, 5/1)

The Washington Post:
Coronavirus Mutations Aren’t Slowing Down

“This virus has probably got tricks we haven’t seen yet,” virologist Robert F. Garry of Tulane University said. “We know it’s probably not quite as infectious as measles yet, but it’s creeping up there, for sure.” The latest member of the rogue’s gallery of variants and subvariants is the ungainly named BA.2.12.1, part of the omicron gang. Preliminary research suggests it is about 25 percent more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant that is currently dominant nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said the subvariant has rapidly spread in the Northeast in particular, where it accounts for the majority of new infections. “We have a very, very contagious variant out there. It is going to be hard to ensure that no one gets covid in America. That’s not even a policy goal,” President Biden’s new covid-19 coordinator, Ashish Jha, said in his inaugural news briefing Tuesday. (Achenbach, 5/1)

Deaths from covid shift from the unvaxxed —

The Washington Post:
Covid Deaths No Longer Overwhelmingly Among The Unvaccinated

The pandemic’s toll is no longer falling almost exclusively on those who chose not to or could not get shots, with vaccine protection waning over time and the elderly and immunocompromised — who are at greatest risk of succumbing to covid-19, even if vaccinated — having a harder time dodging increasingly contagious strains. The vaccinated made up 42 percent of fatalities in January and February during the highly contagious omicron variant’s surge, compared with 23 percent of the dead in September, the peak of the delta wave, according to nationwide data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Post. The data is based on the date of infection and limited to a sampling of cases in which vaccination status was known. (Nirappil and Keating, 4/29)

On rising cases and warnings of a further rise in covid —

The Hill:
Birx Says US Must Prepare For Summer COVID Surge As Immunity Wanes

Deborah Birx, a leading member of the Trump administration’s White House coronavirus task force, said on Sunday the U.S. should be prepared for another potential COVID-19 surge after a recent uptick in infections in South Africa. “They’re on an upslope again,” Birx said of South Africa’s infections on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Each of these surges are about four to six months apart. That tells me that natural immunity wanes enough in the general population after four to six months that a significant surge is going to occur again. And this is what we have to be prepared for in this country,” she added. (Beals, 5/1)

Birx: U.S. Should Prepare For COVID Surge In The South

Southern states should be prepared for a possible surge of COVID-19 cases this summer, former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Sunday. Birx told CBS’ “Face the Nation” she expects to see a wave of COVID-19 cases across the South this summer similar to ones during 2020 and 2021. “What has happened each time is we’ve had a summer surge across the South and a winter surge that starts in our Northern Plains and moves down, accelerated by Thanksgiving and the holidays,” Birx said. (Shapero, 5/1)

The Wall Street Journal:
Covid-19 Cases Rise In The U.S., With Limited Impact

As new Omicron variants further infiltrate the U.S., a jumble of signals suggest the latest increase in Covid-19 infections hasn’t sparked a commensurate surge in severe illness even as risks remain. Covid-19 virus levels detected in wastewater in the Northeast, the first region to see significant concentrations of the easily transmitted Omicron BA.2 variant, appear to have flattened out in the past two weeks. Covid-19 hospital admissions have risen in the region, but they remain far below levels during earlier surges that indicated widespread severe illness and taxed healthcare facilities. (Abbott and Kamp, 5/1)

CDC: Half Of Vermont’s 14 Counties Have High COVID-19 Levels 

Half of Vermont’s 14 counties have been rated as having high community levels of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rankings are based on a handful of factors including new hospital admissions for COVID-19, recent case counts, and the community’s overall hospital capacity. Washington County reported the highest number of cases per 100,000 individuals, followed by Chittenden County and Bennington County. The other counties with high community levels of the virus are Addison, Franklin, Grand Isle and Orleans. (5/1)

Also —

Ozzy Osbourne Has Been Diagnosed With COVID-19

Ozzy Osbourne has been diagnosed with COVID-19, his wife Sharon Osbourne said on The Talk UK. “I am very worried about Ozzy right now,” Sharon Osbourne said tearfully on the talk show she began hosting just three days before sharing the news of her husband’s diagnosis. “We’ve gone two years without him catching COVID and it’s just Ozzy’s luck he would get it now.” She said she is taking off time from the show to care for her 73-year-old husband, an original member of Black Sabbath and star of The Osbournes, a reality show with his family. (Torchinsky, 4/30)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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