BA.5 variant is 'one of the largest surges we’ve had'

UW Medicine Infectious Diseases physician Dr. John Lynch says the BA.5 variant’s apparent strength in evading previous immune protection is driving a summer surge in new COVID-19 cases.

“We're probably at a number (of total cases) less than what we saw in January, but something very sizable and probably one of the largest surges we've had through the whole pandemic,” said Lynch, the medical director of infection control at Harborview Medical Center.

As of July 22, 86 inpatients were receiving treatment at UW Medicine hospitals for COVID-19 infections. The most recent UW Virology data available from July 3 shows the BA.5 variant accounted for 66.9% of the lab’s sequenced positive COVID-19 tests.

Lynch says the momentum of the latest variant should serve as encouragement for those eligible to stay current on booster vaccinations.

“I am very pro-booster. I think that if you're eligible for boosters in any way, shape, or form – you should definitely get them. For those who are eligible for that second booster, absolutely get it on board,” said Lynch. “I do not think that waiting for an omicron-specific booster or vaccine in the fall is necessary. We really know we're in a surge right now with a highly transmissible variant.”

People under age 50 who are not immunocompromised remain ineligible for a second COVID-19 booster shot. Lynch advises this group to remain in line with federal guidance, while staying up to date on developments in case future guidelines expand COVID-19 booster access.

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on the BA.5 variant, booster shots, navigating summer events, and President Biden’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

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