Existing COVID Antibodies Work Against New Variant: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said research shows that antibodies produced by a prior COVID-19 infection or existing vaccines were good enough to protect against a new variant that has been found in the United States.

The CDC suggested in its update that the data is “encouraging” for the latest COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, which is currently being reviewed by federal health agencies. The Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to authorize updated vaccines that target subvariants of Omicron.

“Early research data from multiple labs are reassuring and show that existing antibodies work against the new BA.2.86 variant,” the CDC said in an update on Friday. “These data are also encouraging because of what it may mean for the effectiveness of the 2023–2024 COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently under review. That’s because the vaccine is tailored to the currently circulating variants.”

The public health agency added that the new BA.2.86 lineage of COVID-19 was not driving the small recent increases in cases and hospitalizations in the United States, which the agency attributed to other predominantly circulating viruses.

Since the CDC’s initial risk assessment in August, BA.2.86 has been identified in nine U.S. states as of Friday. The Omicron offshoot has also been identified from both human and wastewater specimens in countries including Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

“Additionally, based on CDC’s experience with past SARS-CoV-2 variants, people will likely have protection against severe disease mediated by both cellular and antibody immunity,” the agency said Friday. “Real-world data are needed to fully understand the impact given the complexities of the immune response to this variant. Additional studies on this are ongoing, and we expect to learn more in upcoming weeks.”

Conflicting Messages

The statement about a prior infection or existing vaccines providing protection comes in contrast to the CDC’s previous comments in late August that the new COVID-19 variant may be more capable than older variants of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received vaccines.

At the time, the health agency said that it was too soon to determine whether BA.2.86 could cause more severe illness in people than previous variants. It noted that there are a high number of mutations with the lineage and cited concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines and prior infection.

“The large number of mutations in this variant raises concerns of greater escape from existing immunity from vaccines and previous infections compared with other recent variants,” the CDC stated in its assessment in August. “For example, one analysis of mutations suggests the difference may be as large as or greater than that between BA.2 and XBB.1.5, which circulated nearly a year apart.”

But officials noted at the time that “virus samples are not yet broadly available for more reliable laboratory testing of antibodies, and it is too soon to know the real-world impacts on immunity.”

The assessment said that most of the American population possess COVID-19 antibodies from a prior infection, vaccination, or both. It’s likely that the antibodies will provide some protection against the latest variant, it conceded at the time.

Around the same time, a high-level official with the United Nations World Health Organization designated the BA.2.86 as a “variant under monitoring,” saying there was “limited” information about it. But some researchers said that people shouldn’t jump to any conclusions, noting that a number of other COVID-19 strains had little impact.

“Intrinsic severity of a virus is a byproduct of many traits, a product of selection on other features. Any attempt to guess the intrinsic severity of BA.2.86 (within reasonable parameters) is just that—a guess,” Aris Katzourakis, a biologist with the University of Oxford, said via social media in August. “It is far, far too early to evaluate the potential of this variant.”

Mandates Returning

The CDC’s latest assessment also comes as a handful of schools, hospitals, businesses, and at least one local county government reimpose mask mandates. This week, an official in Dallas County, Alabama, told a local news outlet that masking will be required in county offices.

A school in Montgomery County, Maryland, also required masking after several students reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, officials said earlier in the week. Several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), criticized the rule on social media and suggested it’s not fair to children.

“If you want to voluntarily wear a mask, fine, but leave our kids the hell alone,” he said in a post on X that included the school’s letter to parents.

Several hospitals in New York, Massachusetts, and California have also brought back mandates in recent days, although some facilities only require masks for doctors, nurses, and other staff.

Earlier this week, the CDC also issued a warning about an increase in RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, among younger children in the southeastern United States.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Reposted from: https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/cdc-says-existing-covid-antibodies-work-against-new-variant-5488568

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