New omicron subvariant evades immunity from vaccines, past infections

BreAnne Anderson, a registered nurse, administers a COVID-19 test at a Nomi Health test site at Centennial Park in West Valley City on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

A new version of the COVID-19 omicron variant that may be the best yet at evading immunity from vaccinations or previous infections has been spreading in Utah for at least two months.

As of Friday, 75 cases of the omicron subvariant labeled BA.4.6 have been identified in Utah by the state lab’s genome sequencing of some 3,000 positive COVID-19 test samples weekly, according to Kelly Oakeson, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services chief scientist for next generation sequencing and bioinformatics.

The subvariant was first detected in Utah on June 7, Oakeson said, and is now estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make up just over 4% of the coronavirus circulating throughout the United States as of the end of July but only slightly more than 2% in the region that includes Utah.

The CDC is now listing BA.4.6 separately on its weekly chart monitoring variant proportions. Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, the White House COVID-19 data director, tweeted earlier this week that the subvariant “has been circulating for several weeks.”

Cases of BA.4.6 — actually a subvariant of another COVID-19 subvariant, BA.4, that spread widely overseas but not in the U.S. — are climbing slowly but steadily, especially recently even as another subvariant, BA.5, remains the dominant strain in Utah and the rest of the country.

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“Definitely, we’ve seen more of them in the past week or so,” Oakeson said, adding BA.4.6 cases have been “growing faster, sooner” since around mid-July. He said he expects that to continue, noting cases of the subvariant have already hit nearly 11% in the region made up of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.

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Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

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