New dominant COVID-19 variant most transmissible yet, health officials say

[anvplayer video=”5121709″ station=”998122″]

There’s a new dominant variant of COVID-19 and health officials say it’s the most transmissible yet.

Called BA.5, it’s a subvariant of omicron and it’s quickly taking its grip across the county and Minnesota.

According to the CDC, about two-thirds of cases in the U.S. are believed to be BA.5 — and in the most recent report from the metro wastewater surveillance program, BA.5 made up 62% of the viral load entering the site, up from 43% the week before.

“It’s a bit more active at evading the immune system,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, medical director at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), said about BA.5.

“We’re watching closely to see if it may be associated with more severe disease — we don’t really know the answer to that yet,” Dr. Lynfield added. “But, we do think that it certainly is more contagious.”

Tuesday morning, the White House COVID-19 response team addressed BA.5.

“We have been watching this virus evolve rapidly,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said.

BA.5 is reigniting discussions surrounding the importance of the vaccine, booster shots and specifically a second booster shot if you’re eligible.

“If you have not gotten one this year, please go get another vaccine — it could save your life,” Dr. Jha said.

The push to vaccinate comes on the heels of Moderna sharing that their omicron-specific vaccine can supply a person with six times the amount of antibodies — that dose won’t be available until fall or early winter.

Still, the message remains: don’t wait for it, and get a shot if you can.

“If you get vaccinated today, you’re not going to be ineligible to get the variant-specific vaccine as we get into the later parts of fall and winter,” Dr. Jha said.

Mayo Clinic is also finding BA.5 to be more contagious — making the vaccine one of the best defenses against it.

“If there’s really high amounts of antibodies that are elicited from recent vaccination or recent infection, it can help prevent the virus from causing an infection or causing disease,” Dr. Matt Binnicker, director of virology with Mayo Clinic said, adding: “That’s why it’s going to be important to get that second booster.”

More vaccination information can be found here.