The BA.4.6 subvariant of COVID-19 is the newest “variant of concern.”
It is present in at least four states that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is tracking.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is BA.4.6?
BA.4.6. is a spinoff of the BA.4 subvariant of the coronavirus’ omicron variant. It had been “circulating for several weeks” in the U.S. before the CDC officially began tracking it, according to Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, White House COVID-19 data director.
Where has BA.4.6. spread?
The new subvariant has spread to the Midwestern states of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, where it makes 10.7% of cases in the region.
The mid-Atlantic region and South are also seeing BA.4.6 cases rise above the average.
According to the CDC, the total number of BA.4.6 cases made up 4.1% of the national average of COVID-19 cases.
The new subvariant has also been detected in 43 countries, according to outbreak.info, which compiles COVID-19 information.
Do vaccines work against BA.4.6?
Right now, experts are not sure if vaccines will work against this particular subvariant of COVID-19. Many new variants, like BA.4.6, are emerging faster than new vaccines are being made.
However, according to the CDC, all approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines have been effective in reducing the risk of serious illness and death from previous virus variants and subvariants. “In addition to data from clinical trials, evidence from real-world vaccine effectiveness studies show that COVID-19 vaccines help protect against COVID-19 infections, with or without symptoms (asymptomatic infections),” the CDC said.
Last Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was looking to approve boosters that target the BA.5 subvariant of omicron by this fall. This was a pivot from its plan to up the eligibility age for boosters based on the original 2020 COVID-19 strain.
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