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  • Ryan Wittler

The Dominant Omicron Subvariants Are Better at Evading Vaccines and Treatments

Juan Moyano

A new study from researchers at Columbia University shows the latest omicron subvariants – BA.4 and BA.5 – are better than their predecessors at dodging COVID vaccines and most antibody treatments.

  • The study was published in the journal Nature as a preprint to give early access to its findings, meaning, it hasn’t been peer reviewed.

Study highlights:

The study found that while the BA.2.12.1 subvariant is only modestly more resistant in people who are vaccinated and boosted than the earlier omicron variants, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are at least four times more resistant.

  • The team also tested 19 monoclonal antibody treatments and found only one remained highly effective against the BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 types.

The researchers studied the antibodies of people who received at least three doses of an mRNA vaccine or got two shots and had a subsequent infection from the omicron variant.

  • They didn’t study individuals who hadn’t received a booster because previous work showed two doses offered little protection against the earlier omicron variants.

Going forward:

The researchers say the findings aren’t surprising, as the virus is expected to evolve as it spreads throughout the world.

  • The team predicts the subvariants will continue to cause more breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated and boosted, though the findings also showed the vaccines still provide strong protection against severe disease.

Why it matters:

As of this past weekend, CDC data shows the BA.5 subvariant represents around 53% of COVID infections in the U.S., while BA.4 makes up around 16.5%.

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