COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased since the start of July. The global surveillance network identified the BA.2.86 variant, which is highly mutated and potentially highly transmissible. A variant of this type could be able to bypass our antibodies induced by vaccination and infection and increase seasonal hospitalizations. The recommendation by the FDA’s VRBPAC in June that the Fall updated vaccine be composed of an XBB-lineage of the Omicron variant appeared to be at risk. The fear was that we would face a situation similar to last year, where the virus had already evolved beyond the BA.4/5 bivalent vaccines.
But the landscape of the pandemic—especially the clinical disease caused by SARS-CoV-2—has significantly changed. In the emergency department, we see a new strain of virus. This is probably a combination both of high levels population hybrid immunity as well as evolution of virus itself, which favors infection of the upper respiratory tract and causes less severe disease.
The CDC’s recent decision to universally recommend vaccines for everyone, while falling short of a…