Omicron BA.2: What Ohioans need to know

As Ohio continues to come out of the omicron surge of COVID-19, a subvariant, known as omicron BA.2, is increasing throughout the world.

“In Ohio we haven’t yet seen much of BA.2,” Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said. The state’s most recent genomic sequencing data from Jan. 7 to March 8 showed about 2% of omicron cases were from the BA.2 and the subvariant has only been detected in two of the watersheds looking at wastewater data in the state.

While BA.2 appears to be more contagious than BA.1, Vanderhoff said the BA.1 subvariant that led the omicron surge in Ohio and U.S. offers good protection against BA.2.

“It’s important to understand because BA.1 and BA.2 are so closely related there’s good reason to believe we will not face a BA.2 surge like we did with BA.1,” he said.

With data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing BA.2 cases is assuming a growing percentage of declining COVID cases, the subvariant could increase in Ohio in the coming weeks and months, Vanderhoff said.

BA.2 also has a similar severity and responds to vaccines like the as BA.1 subvariant.

Despite preliminary data indicating its unlikely Ohio will see a surge caused by BA.2, vaccination and getting boosted is still key in preventing the virus from spreading.

“We still have work to do, especially when it comes to boosters,” said Clark County Combined Health District Assistant Health Commissioner Chris Cook. “Vaccines have been proven to dramatically lower the risk of infection and severe illness.”

Though many people who were infected with the omicron variant over the last few months may have some immunity, Cook said it’s not clear how long that will last.

“Infection-acquired immunity is unpredictable,” he said. “...Don’t wait for that next surge to hit. Get vaccinated for what’s next. Boosters continue to be safe and effective and frankly they can still be the deciding factor between a mild illness and being on a [ventilator].”

Vanderhoff added the state is monitoring data released about a potential low-dose vaccine for children younger than 6 from Moderna.

However, until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices releases its guidance ODH cannot take firm and definitive steps toward planning the vaccine’s distribution.

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