The omicron subvariant that dominates COVID-19 cases in the United States is more resistant to vaccines

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A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pennsylvania on December 15, 2021.

Matt Rourke/AP

The BA.5 omicron subvariant, which is now the most common coronavirus strain in the United States, is four times more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, a new study has found.

The strain, considered “hypercontagious”, according to the Mayo Clinicis more provocative against messenger RNA vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna.

The BA.5 strain accounted for 65% of cases from July 3-9, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

It is contributing to the increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions across the country.

But vaccines still offer much better protection than doing without safeguards.

Unvaccinated people are about five times more likely to contract the virus than those who are vaccinated and boosted, while the risk of hospitalization is 7.5 times higher and the risk of death is 14 to 15 times higher, said Dr. Gregory Poland, head of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.

“Let me make a clear and plain point here that’s a little hard to hear: whether you’ve been vaccinated, whether you’ve ever been infected, whether you’ve ever been infected and vaccinated, you have very little protection against BA .5 in terms of infection or mild to moderate infection,” he said. “You have good protection against death, hospitalization or ending up on a ventilator.”

The CDC still recommends getting tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and wearing masks depending on how many cases you live in.

The most contagious omicron variant was first detected in the United States in December 2021.

As the BA.5 strain becomes more popular, the incidences of the BA.1, BA 1.1, and BA.2 omicron subvariants have decreased.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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