WHO says expecting 'repeated waves' of COVID-19 infection

Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2022 05:40 PM

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID/file
Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID/file

MANILA – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said it expects to see “repeated waves of infection” as more COVID-19 subvariants gain advantages over their predecessors. 

WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said that while the BA.2 Omicron sublineage has become dominant globally, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are also increasing based on sequences submitted by various countries.

“We do see BA.5 has a growth advantage which has to do with transmissibility and immune escape. So it’s transmitting more efficiently, it’s the most transmissible variant we’ve seen of SARS-COV-2. But I do want to warn people out there that the next variant I talk about will be more transmissible than the last because it has to outcompete whatever is circulating,” she said.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) continues to confirm the detection of the BA.5 subvariant among samples sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center. 

While they still cannot confirm whether or not BA.5 has overtaken BA.2, DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said it has become the more commonly detected sublineage. 

“Based sa ating sequencing results, most of results from previous 2 runs, BA.5 na ang mas marami... I can say that BA.5 is more [dominant] than BA.2.12.1 in the country,” she said. 

(Based on our sequencing results, most of the results from 2 previous runs tested back positive for BA.5.)

As of writing, the country is going through another wave of infections, although this is still very manageable based on average daily attack rate and healthcare utilization rates. 

But another sublineage, BA.2.75, is also making its presence felt. 

“We have very limited information about BA.2.75. Again, a sublineage of Omicron so this is classified as a variant of concern already. This virus seems to have a growth advantage even over BA.5. But it’s very early days in terms of our understanding of this, so we’re watching this very closely,” Van Kerkhove explained.

“So we expect, as an organization with our partners, that we will see peaks and troughs of infection. Hopefully those peaks will be lower than previous peaks before. But that doesn’t mean it need to translate into more severe disease or more increased risk of hospitalization and death," she added.

WHO also assured that vaccines against COVID-19 continue to be effective in preventing severe disease and death even if infected by Omicron and its sublineages, calling on health agencies worldwide to increase their vaccination rates.

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