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Monday, November 28, 2022

New Omicron subvariant expected to become major COVID-19 strain in Ontario

Health officials say a new subtype of Omicron is expected to become the major strain of COVID-19 in Ontario.

According to the latest epidemiological summary by Public Health Ontario (PHO), the BA.5 subvariant has “the fastest comparative evolutionary rate of any lineage in Ontario”.

Officials found that between the last week of May and the first week of June, the ratio of BA5 to sample positive cases increased from 3.1 per cent to 6.7 per cent. The weekly growth rate is also 3.22 times compared to the BA.2 subtype over the past 12 weeks.

“With that European data and other data, it appears to be more transmittable than the BA.2 version,” Dr. Sameer Patel, head of microbiology and laboratory science at PHO, told CTV News Toronto on Monday.

By the end of the month, Patel is predicting that just over 50 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the province will be the BA.5 subvariant.

“This is in line with what we are seeing internationally as well,” he said.

Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant is driving a rise in cases in the United States as well as several European countries. Last week Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Medical Officer of Health, said that BA.5 made up about 6.5 percent of COVID-19 cases in Canada.

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Patel says health officials don’t have enough information to say whether the BA.5 subvariant is more severe than the others, but they are “tracking it.”

“It is more contagious so we are seeing BA.5 infection in individuals who have received the full dose of vaccination … but we are also not seeing severe disease,” Patel said. “We need more data to be able to say conclusively that, yes, you know, people who have been vaccinated can become infected, but the rate or severity of hospitalizations is going to be low. It’s gonna be.”

Patel said officials still recommend getting vaccinated against the novel coronavirus because it will likely provide some protection from hospitalization regardless of subtype. This echoed in new data provided by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who found that antibodies in the new subtypes are more likely to escape.

“These data suggest that the BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 subvariants substantially evade neutralizing antibodies induced by both vaccination and infection,” report the researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine. written.

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According to PHO data as of June 17, more than 18 per cent of the hospitalized patients with at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were related to the BA.5 subvariant. Patel argues that this statistic is not relevant because the more a type spreads, the more likely it is to naturally infect a greater number of people, regardless of vaccination status.

“We all need vaccinations,” he said. “If you are eligible for a third booster, you should get vaccinated… (If) you are eligible for a fourth booster you should also get vaccinated.”

It is not yet clear how the emergence of a new major strain will affect the overall number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario or the province’s health care system, but according to data provided by the Science Advisory Table, it appears as if The concentration of novel coronavirus in wastewater has started increasing gradually.

In most areas, except for public health units in the Southwest, there is an upward tick in the COVID-19 concentration in wastewater indications.

Exactly a month ago, public health officials observed an increase in the BA.2.20 subvariant in Ontario.

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