BQ.1.1 Covid variant makes vaccines four times weaker trends now

BQ.1.1 Covid variant makes vaccines four times weaker trends now
BQ.1.1 Covid variant makes vaccines four times weaker trends now

BQ.1.1 Covid variant makes vaccines four times weaker trends now

A rising Covid subvariant soon to become dominant across the US makes the updated bivalent vaccines significantly weaker, according to a study.

The BQ.1.1 strain - a descendent of BA.5 and the original Omicron variant - already makes up a third of cases nationwide and is out-competing all other versions of the virus, suggesting it has an evolutionary edge.

Researchers from the University of Texas tested the new strain against Pfizer and Moderna's new bivalent shots - designed to target the original Omicron - to see if the new variant spreads so quickly because it can duck vaccines.

They did so by taking blood of Americans given those vaccines and exposing them to the virus in a lab. 

Results showed the number of antibodies - immune proteins that help fight viruses - produced in response to BQ.1.1 were four times lower than those that prevented the BA.5 strain.

Experts have repeatedly stressed that antibodies are just one small part of a complex immune response and caution people not to read too much into the results of such studies.

America is believed to have high levels of immunity in the population after repeated Covid infection waves and previous vaccine rollouts. . 

But the results will come as a blow to Pfizer and Moderna who hoped their updated shots would provide high levels of protection for all future Omicron strains going forward..

The rise of BQ.1.1 coincides with an uptick in Covid cases and hospitalizations coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Researchers found that the bivalent Covid booster was effective against the BA.5 variant (purple) but only had a fourth of the effective antibodies against the growing BQ.1.1 strain (white). The shot is also significantly more effective for people who have previously suffered a Covid infection (right)

Researchers found that the bivalent Covid booster was effective against the BA.5 variant (purple) but only had a fourth of the effective antibodies against the growing BQ.1.1 strain (white). The shot is also significantly more effective for people who have previously suffered a Covid infection (right)

The BQ.1.1 strain now makes up 31.9 percent of active Covid cases in America, making it the most prevalent strain. It is expected to soon take over as the nation's dominant strain

The BQ.1.1 strain now makes up 31.9 percent of active Covid cases in America, making it the most prevalent strain. It is expected to soon take over as the nation's dominant strain

An average of 54,369 Americans are recording Covid infections each day, a 28 percent increase over the past two weeks.

Hospitalizations are increasing as well, with the 36,433 per day figure being 29 percent higher than two weeks ago.

Despite these increases, the number of Americans dying from Covid is falling. The nation is averaging 287 daily deaths, a 10 percent drop in the last 14 days.

The BQ.1.1 strain may soon be America's dominant strain. It is already the most prevalent variant of the virus circulating, making up 31.9 percent of cases. 

It has rapidly grown, as it made up only 11 percent of active cases during the first week of November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The variant was first detected in America in September, but the CDC did not report it as a separate strain until October. 

The Texas study, published Tuesday in Nature Medicine, gathered data from 29 people who received the booster and followed them for up to 94 days. 

Each either received the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna shots. Both are being used within the government's booster rollout.

Blood samples were drawn from

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