Officials from the Biden administration have upped the chatter on BA.4 and BA.5, two clades of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), using their growth as a basis to push for booster injections for modified versions of the existing vaccines.
Associated Press paraphrased CDC Director Rochelle Walensky as stating that “the U.S. has seen a doubling in the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since April, reflecting the spread of the new subvariants, though deaths have remain steady around 300 per day,” in July 12 reporting.
Walensky, Anthony Fauci, and White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha were all quoted in the article as pushing for the public to take the third booster injection of the novel gene therapy vaccines as a measure.
Jha boasted that for the unvaccinated aged over 50, “It’s going to save your life.”
The officials also said that the Administration is considering approving a fourth injection in the form of a second booster to all U.S. adults.
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Notably, Jha directly referenced a “variants specific vaccine” likely to be approved “as we get into the later part of fall and winter.”
Media chatter hyping BA.4 and BA.5 likewise ramped up, such as a July 11 piece published by The Atlantic titled “Is BA.5 the ‘Reinfection Wave’?”
“Those who have managed to avoid the virus for close to three years will find it a little harder to continue that streak, and some who recently caught COVID are getting it again,” said author Ed Yong.
Yong quoted Stephen Goldstein, a virologist from the University of Utah, as supporting his point, “People shouldn’t be surprised if they get infected, and they shouldn’t be surprised if it’s pretty unpleasant.”
The outlet also quoted an epidemiologist from the Communist China-friendly World Health Organization, Maria Van Kerkhove, as stating that against the new clades, “We will not prevent all transmission…but we have to reduce the spread.”
“It’s not over, and we are playing with fire by letting this virus circulate at such intense levels,” she added.
July 11 data from aggregator Our World In Data shows that the Omicron variant currently comprises 100 percent of all U.S. SARS-CoV-2 sequences, and has since February.
On June 14, Reuters reported, based on CDC data, that more than 21 percent of all U.S. “variants” were BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron.
On June 28, Reuters reported, again based on CDC data, that 52 percent of U.S. “cases” were the dueling clades.
But as for the Biden administration’s claim that getting boosted is the way to go, a June 23 article by CNN told the public that BA.4 and BA.5 “appear to escape antibody responses among both people who had previous Covid-19 infection and those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted.”
The statement was based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers from the Harvard Medical School.
And although it was already well known that the efficacy of existing vaccines were heavily reduced by Omicron, and in some cases actually making takers more likely to contract the variant, the Harvard study was particularly notable.
The researchers stated they “observed 3-fold reductions of neutralizing antibody titers induced by vaccination and infection against BA4 and BA5 compared with” the original Omicron and its BA.2 clade.
CNN added that the conclusions “echo separate research by scientists at Columbia University,” which differed in that its results “point to a higher risk for reinfection, even in people who have some prior immunity against the virus.”
However, Harvard’s study added the caveat that “it is likely” that vaccines will “still provide substantial protection against severe disease” from BA.4 and BA.5.
The chatter comes on the back of a June 29 announcement that the Biden administration had inked a $3.2 billion deal to purchase an additional 105 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, AP reported.
However, the article was ambiguous whether the new doses would be the existing versions or an upgraded version, as it stated that the deliveries would occur in early fall “pending a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to authorize new versions of the shots.”
The contract also gives the government the option to purchase up to 300 million doses.