According to a new study, the rapidly increasing BQ and XBB omicron subvariants are “barely susceptible to neutralization” by the COVID-19 vaccinations, including the latest booster injection.
According to a study published this week in the journal Cell, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB, and XBB.1 are the “most resistant SARS-CoV-2 genotypes to date.” Approximately 73% of new COVID-19 infections last week were caused by subvariants, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Moreover, monoclonal antibodies were “mostly ineffective” against the novel subvariants. As per US News, the authors said, “Taken together, our data indicate that BQ and XBB subvariants pose grave dangers to current COVID-19 vaccinations, render all permitted antibodies inert, and may have achieved dominance in the population due to their ability to evade antibodies.”
The researchers analyzed blood samples from individuals who received three or four doses of the original vaccine, as well as those who received the new booster injection after three doses of the original vaccine and those who contracted COVID-19 from the BA.2 or BA.5 subvariants after immunization.
The study determined that the updated vaccines performed marginally better than the original vaccines against the new subvariants and emphasized that COVID-19 vaccines are still effective at preventing hospitalizations and severe disease, as well as possibly lowering the risk of developing long COVID-19.
The authors warn that the study relied on blood samples collected in the laboratory and that outcomes in the real world may vary.
It is the most recent study to contribute to the growing body of evidence suggesting the group of omicron subvariants is especially adept at avoiding past protection from infections and vaccines, hence raising the likelihood of a winter coronavirus outbreak.
The modified booster dose evoked a high antibody response against BA.4 and BA.5 but “did not achieve substantial neutralization against the recently discovered BQ.1.1 or XBB,” according to a study published last week in Nature Medicine.
The revised vaccinations are intended to protect against omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, in addition to the original coronavirus strain. However, these subvariants are dropping in the United States, whereas BQ.1.1, BQ.1, and XBB are increasing.
With an increase in coronavirus illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, the Biden administration has been encouraging more individuals to receive the revised COVID-19 booster vaccine before the end of the year. It expanded access to the vaccinations to infants as young as six months old last week, citing diminishing immunity and more indoor time.
However, less than 14% of eligible Americans have signed up for the boost. According to the CDC, “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission are occurring in 72% of counties across the nation. This is a huge increase compared to the previous week, possibly owing to Thanksgiving gatherings and colder weather driving more people indoors.