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Omicron BA.2 subvariant more transmissible, severe

Omicron BA.2

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Approaching the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., the new omicron BA.2 subvariant is slowly becoming more prominent amongst positive cases.

Although studies show the subvariant is at least 30 percent more transmissible and could cause more severe disease, recent boosters by vaccines or the original omicron variant will protect the population, according to CNN.

“These new studies are providing reassurance that while the BA.2 may overtake BA.1, it won’t necessarily lead to greater numbers of hospitalizations or death per what they’re thinking,” said UH College of Medicine clinical professor Dr. Bhavna Lall. “But as we’ve seen in the past, what people think is not necessarily what happens.”

Although some are optimistic with each passing variant, getting our population vaccinated is something that needs to be pushed to prevent severe disease, Lall said.

“In our own country, we are not able to vaccinate the majority of our population because people are refusing to get vaccinations because of misinformation campaigns,” Lall said. “Other countries would just be so happy if they had the amount of vaccines that we did at the beginning, and we have all this, and yet we still can’t convince people to take them. It’s very sad.”

The concerning issue with omicron and now this omicron BA.2 subvariant, is it has been able to evade the vaccines in vaccinated and even boostered individuals, Lall said.

“But people who are vaccinated and boosted, had a decreased risk of hospitalization and death, and decreased risk for severe disease,” Lall said. “I think that’s what we should be aiming for right now.”

Some students like electrical engineering sophomore Samy Abusaif, aren’t as concerned about contracting the omicron BA.2 variant, but still want to exercise more caution given its increased transmissibility.

“I’m not worried about myself, I’m worried about others,” Abusaif said. “I’d probably wear a mask, social distance, just the normal guidelines.”

Others like mechanical engineering junior Andrea Castaneda, are concerned about how catching COVID-19 can still greatly impact her daily life.

Castaneda’s brother is a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, and is concerned that her journeys to campus could end up with her possibly transmitting the virus to him.

“He can’t go anywhere, I feel like normally cancer patients have to be very cautious anyway, not just (with) COVID,” Castaneda said. “Now he can’t even leave his house to do anything because it’s such a big concern.”

Not only is Castaneda worried about her brother, but she is also worried about her own health and how contracting the virus could disrupt her studies.

“I’m in engineering, so missing one day of class you miss a lot. I can’t really afford to do that,” Castaneda said. 

Aside from vaccine technology continuously evolving, the precautions being taken the past two years will be what helps to get through this pandemic as well as evaluating one’s own risk, Lall said.

“We have seen the same things happening for the last two years. It does not take a doctor or a scientist to tell anyone now what they might see in the future,” Lall said. “At this point, we know the tools that we can use to protect ourselves better, which are vaccines, masks, hand hygiene, increasing ventilation, social distancing and all of that. But I think we need to make sure that we emphasize vaccines and masking still, and know that those are tools that we need to continue to use.”

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