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Emerging Variants Pose Threat as COVID-19 Cases Surge in the US, Heightening Concerns Over Vaccination

COVID-19 Cases Surge in the US heightening concerns over Vaccination

United States: With emerging summers, the threat possessed by the COVID-19 has been increasing as two new variants of the virus has been circulating across the United States. The two (2) variants are under close observation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the start of 2024. 

According to the reports, scientifically both the variants has been named as KP.2 and KP.1.1 and they are nicknamed as FLiRT variant due to their mutations. The concerns are high because they have been growing at a larger pace, as compared to the other variants, as per The Hill. 

The health experts have warned that the KP.2 variant of the COVID-19 has been dominating in the US as around 25 percent of the total cases are due to the same. Whereas, around 8 percent of the COVID-19 cases were associated with KP.1.1 variant. The health experts have warned that new variants are the sublineages of the JN.1 Omicron variant – which has dominated the world to approximately three years. 

In addition to this, the health experts have also underlined that the new FLiRT variants are similar to JN.1 variants and shows only a few changes in their spike proteins. 

Efficiency of COVID-19 vaccines!

With the imminent spread of the virus as summer approaches, concerns may arise regarding the efficacy of one’s most recent vaccine dose. Ultimately, the effectiveness hinges on the timing of the last administration.

Autumn witnessed the introduction of an updated COVID vaccine. The CDC advocated for individuals aged six months and above to receive the updated doses developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax. In February, a federal immunization panel recommended an additional dose for those aged 65 and older. Children aged six months to 4 years necessitate multiple doses, according to CDC guidelines, according to the reports by The Hill. 

Previously, health authorities asserted that COVID vaccines would confer protection against the virus for “several months.” In a February update regarding the latest vaccine booster released in September, the CDC acknowledged its effectiveness from September to January but anticipates a decline in protection over time, as observed with previous doses.

However, owing to the novelty of the FLiRT variants, insufficient data exists to determine whether the vaccine or acquired immunity from recent COVID infections offers adequate protection against them.

During an interview with TODAY, Dr William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, noted that laboratory studies thus far indicate that vaccines and natural immunity may afford only partial protection. Recently, the World Health Organization recommended that forthcoming COVID vaccine formulations be based on the JN.1 variant, a close relative of the FLiRT derivatives that dominated in the US in recent months.

According to the latest CDC report, minimal COVID activity has been detected in wastewater nationwide. Moreover, virus-related hospitalizations, deaths, and the rate of positive COVID tests among patients visiting emergency departments have declined, as reported by The Hill. 

A CDC spokesperson informed Nexstar that the agency is endeavoring to comprehend the potential impact of KP.2 and KP.1.1 on public health. However, based on laboratory analyses, SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates remain low overall at present.

While KP.2 is currently the most prevalent variant proportionally, it has not led to a surge in infections due to the low transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The spokesperson emphasized that current data do not suggest KP.2 causes more severe illness than other strains. CDC surveillance of community transmission and vaccine efficacy against this variant will continue.

It remained uncertain whether a new COVID vaccine will be developed for the summer months. Despite recent CDC revisions to COVID guidelines, the agency advises individuals aged six months and older to receive the updated COVID vaccine released in the fall if not already vaccinated. Health experts also stressed the importance of testing for symptoms or exposure, staying home when ill, maintaining good hygiene practices, and adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing protocols in public settings.

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