Covid NJ: Vaccines Against Newest Mutations Due in Mid-September

Sources: Lehigh Valley Live; CNN

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose at the end of last month for the first time since the beginning of 2023, but does that mean there is a surge?

According to the CDC, there was a 14.3% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the most recent week in which data was recorded. However, hospitalizations remain at a low level in more than 99% percent of the country.

There is also a new variant, Eris (EG.5), that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled as “highly transmissible.” Another variant, BA.2.86, was labeled as a variant that both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are “monitoring.”

“There are greater than 30 mutations that distinguish it from the currently-dominant variant with numerous changes to the spike protein. BA.2.86 is being monitored because the mutations are in regions of the spike protein targeted by neutralizing antibodies,” Dr. Sandra Adams, a professor of biology and virologist at Montclair State University.

As health professionals look ahead to the fall with the emergence of new variants, the guidance from the CDC has remained the same as more research is being conducted into these new variants as they come about.

“Recommendations include stay up to date with vaccines, get tested if infection is suspected, stay home with any suspected or confirmed infections, seek medical attention when necessary, and follow the advice of health professionals,” Adams told NJ Advance Media.

The US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) is expected to give its nod to the updated vaccines in a few weeks. Then the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of independent experts that advises the CDC on its vaccination decisions, will weigh the safety and effectiveness of the new shots and make recommendations for their use. After the CDC director signs off on those recommendations, the vaccines can be administered.

The vaccines have been updated to teach the body to fight the XBB.1.5 coronavirus subvariant. They are also expected to retain potency against closely related strains. All three vaccine manufacturers say testing shows that their vaccines are effective against EG.5, the currently dominant strain in the US.

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