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Doctor explains why so many vaccinated people are still getting COVID-19

All viruses mutate and form new strains, but as they become unrecognizable to the body, reinfection is possible.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — By now, many people have gotten COVID-19 more than once and reinfections are even more common with the BA.5 subvariant.

According to the CDC, BA.5 makes up 90% of new infections across the country.

Since the pandemic started, there have been several different strains of COVID-19. Alpha, delta, omicron and now subvariant BA.5 have all brought new challenges.

“Viruses are very smart. Viruses have this tendency to, if they are actively infecting a large swath of our population, there are active mutations that keep happening in these viruses," Dr. Abhijit Duggal with the Cleveland Clinic said. "This is something that has been described very well, even before COVID."

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Once someone is infected, their immune system will recognize the virus and be able to fight it off. While mutations are to be expected, COVID-19 has changed so much the body doesn’t always recognize a newer strain even if it would recognize an older strain.

The spike protein on the latest variant is so different than the original omicron strain that people who were infected just a few months ago are able to catch it again.

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Even though the omicron-specific boosters are not available yet, staying up to date on shots can still help in case of reinfection.

“When it comes to vaccination, it’s not just a matter of infection, it is a matter of severity of infection,” Duggal said. “And that is something that has been shown time and time again through these variants, that if you are vaccinated and boosted appropriately, the risk of severe infection goes down significantly.”

Doctors say there’s no telling how many times someone can get COVID-19, and stress the importance of getting protected.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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