OHIO — Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff warned Ohioans to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 ahead of the holiday season as new variants emerge across the world.
More specifically, Vanderhoff pointed to two subvariants that could evade antibody protections: BQ.1.1. and XBB.
BQ.1.1., a subvariant of the contagious omicron BA.5 strain, has “qualities or characteristics that could evade some of the interventions we have,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week. The variant currently accounts for around 10% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just two weeks ago, the variant wasn't on the list for a cause for alarm.
XBB, which emerged in India in August, is a fast-spreading omicron variant, Vanderhoff said.
Vanderhoff said data so far shows that these two variants could evade antibody protections, but added those with the vaccination and boosters have more protection from developing serious illness.
"My message is that if you are not vaccinated or boosted, now is the time because you can require significant protection before these variants become widespread," Vanderhoff said.
Vanderhoff said he worries these variants could create another wave this winter as the holidays approach and families plan to get together.
In early September, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer and Moderna’s updated COVID-19 booster shots that target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s boosters are available to those 12 and older, and Moderna’s is available for those 18 and older.
Vanderhoff said older Ohioans are far more at risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. In Sept. 2021, 52% of the state’s COVID deaths were in the 70 and older age group. Last month, 77% of the state’s COVID deaths were in the same age group, according to Vanderhoff.
Vaccine effectiveness wanes over time. The CDC recommends two boosters for most Americans age 50 and older, and one booster for most people 5 to 49.
COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases have declined over recent weeks in Ohio. According to the ODH dashboard, Ohio has reported fewer than 10,000 weekly cases over the last two weeks.
Last week the second straight week with fewer than 400 hospitalizations, according to the data.
According to the latest CDC COVID map update, only one county remains in the highest level for COVID-19 spread (orange): Lucas County.
The majority of the state remains in the lowest level for spread (green) and 20 counties remain in the moderate level for COVID-19 spread (yellow).