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COVID Variant Tracker: BA.5 Continues to Gain Ground, as Does Sublineage of BA.4

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.5 subvariant of COVID is still continuing to make up a greater share of coronavirus cases, but another variant is slowly gaining steam as well.

Those estimates, released every Tuesday, show that the BA.5 subvariant currently makes up 87.1% of cases in the United States, up from 84.5% a week ago.

The BA.4 subvariant, also a descendant of omicron, now makes up 6.6% of total cases, representing a continued decline as the BA.5 subvariant continues its surge forward.

However, another sublineage of omicron, classified as BA.4.6, is now responsible for 4.8% of cases, up from 4.2% a week ago.

The BA.5 subvariant has been the dominant strain of COVID in the United States since early July, according to the CDC. Descended from the original omicron strain, it has caused a surge in cases in many areas of the country, and has shown an increased ability to get around the immunity gained from previous COVID infections, even from previous cases where the patient had an omicron variant.

The subvariant has shown a similar ability to get around immunity conveyed by vaccines, but those vaccines have still proven effective at preventing serious illness, according to research studies.

Other studies also suggest that patients who become seriously ill due to BA.5 can recover more quickly than from previous versions of the virus.

The United States has already begun preparations for a fall booster shot campaign, with both Pfizer and Moderna contracted to produce hundreds of millions of COVID vaccine doses that will specifically target the omicron variant of the virus.

It is unclear when those shots will be available, but during an earnings call on Monday, BioNTech announced that they expect to start shipping more than 100 million doses of an omicron-tailored vaccine by October.b

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