Omicron subvariants BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 are spreading, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The subvariants, which are offshoots of BA.5, were responsible for a total of 27% of infections this week, according to CDC’s weekly variant estimate update. That’s up from just 9% of COVID-19 cases two weeks ago.
As the pair continues to spread, the prevalence of BA.5 falls. This week, it was responsible for less than 50% of infections – the lowest percentage reported in nearly four months.
The White House has been pushing Americans to get an updated COVID-19 booster shot that targets the omicron variant by Halloween in the hopes of lessening any potential fall and winter coronavirus wave.
But two recent studies have raised questions about just how effective those shots will be, though neither study has been peer-reviewed yet.
The first study concluded that there was “no significant difference” in the neutralization of any coronavirus variants in people who got a fourth dose of the original vaccine compared to the updated shot.
The other study found a “modest and nonsignificant” improvement in BA.5-fighting antibodies from the updated booster shot compared to the original formula.
Despite the studies, the White House has defended the shots. In fact, Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said that he was not surprised by the research. He said that trials from Moderna and Pfizer with larger sample sizes should turn up a more sizable antibody response.
“I do think that the protection against infection is going to be better than if you were getting the original prototype booster,” Jha told CBS News.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have reported positive early data on their updated shots and expect more data in the coming weeks and months.