Scientists have warned that the virus causing COVID-19 is mutating so fast that vaccines – including the new bivalent booster promoted by the Biden administration – are unable to catch up, rendering them ineffective at preventing infection.
Now, a new study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Cell is providing confirmation, concluding that new omicron subvariants are outpacing the current booster targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 strains, CNBC reported.
At the moment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 72% of new infections in the U.S. are from the BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB and XBB.1 omicron subvariants.
The authors of the new study found the BQ and XBB subvariants are “barely susceptible to neutralization” by the vaccines, including the new omicron boosters.
“Together, our findings indicate that BQ and XBB subvariants present serious threats to current COVID-19 vaccines, render inactive all authorized antibodies, and may have gained dominance in the population because of their advantage in evading antibodies,” the scientists wrote.
The researchers concluded the vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalization and severe disease from omicron, but they said it’s “alarming that these newly emerged subvariants could further compromise the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines and result in a surge of breakthrough infections, as well as re-infections.”
Another new study, by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston published by Nature Medicine, found the bivalent booster to be ineffective, concluding it is a poor inducer of neutralizing antibodies against current COVID strains.
Dr. Ryan Cole, a Mayo Clinic-trained pathologist, has explained that the SARS-CoV-2 virus “has mutated ahead of our efforts” to bring a targeted vaccine to the market “and it always will.”
At a roundtable earlier this month in the nation’s capital led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., he explained that the reason there is no vaccine for HIV after four decades is because, like SARS-CoV-2, it has a spike protein that is always mutating.
The Wuhan strain, on which the original COVID mRNA vaccine was based, was long ago “extinct” he said, and the BA.5 and BA.4 omicron variants, on which the new bivalent booster is based, are “almost extinct.”
“We are taking an approach with an infectious agent that is always moving ahead of us,” Cole said.
The new Cell study, in fact, found that omicron subvariants had evolved away from previous versions of omicron significantly. BQ.1.1, for example, is as far removed from omicron BA.5 as BA.5 is from the original Wuhan strain.