Reinfection from new Omicron variants and rising hospital Covid cases prompts booster warning
New Covid-19 sub-variants have led to rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations from the virus, sparking new warnings from experts.
The BA.2 strain of Omicron is still the most dominant in Australia, but an increasing number of infections are from the BA.4 or BA.5 strain – which is emerging in the UK and US.
The new strains have been shown to lead to reinfection of those who previously recovered from Covid.
“We’re seeing reinfection, we know that after Omicron had a previous dose of one of the other variants of Covid-19, Omicron escaped that immune protection from both a previous dose and just two doses of vaccine,” Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told Sky News.
‘Sub-variants of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 have now become the dominant species in the UK (and grow) especially on the east coast of Australia.’
Experts renew call for people to get their Covid-19 booster dose in the wake of rising infections and hospitalizations for new strains of Omicron (pictured, a woman has been vaccinated in Melbourne)
Only 70 percent of eligible population has received their Covid-19 booster dose (pictured, women in Melbourne)
But while the variants are more transmissible, there has been no increase in the severity of the disease, the chief medical officer said.
“We’ll see reinfections in the coming weeks and months, unfortunately with those, but what we’re not seeing is a big increase in serious illness,” he said.
“That’s really because of the vaccine protection that can be boosted with a third and fourth dose.”
Treatments and the availability of antivirals against COVID-19 have also aided in the response to severe cases of the virus, Professor Kelly said.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says persistent reinfections from Omicron variant escaping immune responses bolstered by vaccinations
Epidemiologists also warn of an increase in reinfection and people experiencing severe bouts of the disease.
Deakin University’s chair of epidemiology, Catherine Bennett, said the wider community would be at greater risk of infection in the coming weeks.
“We see what we feared might happen, particularly the convergence of a troubling flu season after a few years of dormancy,” she told Sky News on Thursday.
“With COVID, we’re also seeing numbers remain high and that’s partly because Omicron now has the potential to get reinfection in ways we’ve never seen before, especially with these new variants.”
NSW health authorities said Omicron variants are likely to become the dominant virus strains in the coming weeks, warning of an increase in infections even among those who have already had COVID-19.
Deakin University epidemiology professor Catherine Bennett warns wider community will be at greater risk of infection in coming weeks
Professor Bennett said any new variant would be more transmissible, making it harder for people to avoid contracting the virus when out in public.
She said some of the people who got their booster early in the rollout may have started to lose their protection against the virus.
Only 70 percent of the eligible population has received their booster dose.
“The message is, if you haven’t had your booster yet, take it,” said Prof. Bennett.
“It’s very important that people are tested early and informed about whether or not they qualify for antivirals, so that can help with high infection rates.”
Victoria will lift some of its restrictions at midnight Friday, with positive cases from Saturday allowing a member of their household to drive to or from school or work without leaving their vehicle.
Third-dose vaccine mandates will also be lifted for workers in education, food distribution and quarantine environments, with vaccine policies down to individual workplaces.
Opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston said that as the number of cases rises in parts of the country, pandemic emergency measures must be lifted in all states and territories.
“Australians are really asking their prime ministers and their prime ministers to let them get on with their lives,” she told Sky News.
“We really have to learn to live with this virus, and the way to learn to live with it is to let people make their decisions.”