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'Critical to stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines' | Health officials warn BA.5 could hit less-vaccinated areas hardest

The BA.5 omicron subvariant is now 65% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and is showing ability to reinfect and evade waning vaccine immunity.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Federal health officials are showing more concern over the rise of the latest dominant omicron subvariant. BA.5 is now 65% of new COVID-19 cases nationwide, and members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team said Tuesday they are worried some Americans are not keeping up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters as hospitalizations rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hospitalizations are up nearly 9.4% from the week before.

Health officials are warning that the immune-evasive BA.5 might hit places with lower vaccination rates harder when it comes to severe disease.

The task force said BA.5 seems to be able to reinfect people who have had the virus before, and it can still get vaccinated people sick.

However, the doctors said vaccination still keeps a person from getting severely sick, citing research showing those 50 and older with two booster shots are 42 times less likely to die from the virus compared to the unvaccinated.

"Immunity wanes," Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, said Tuesday. "So, it is critical to stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines as primary vaccines and as boosters, where appropriate."

Statewide, North Carolina reports a single booster rate of 58%. In the Charlotte region, Mecklenburg County has one of the highest rates of people getting at least one booster dose: 37%.

Credit: NCDHHS

The Biden administration is reportedly considering opening up second boosters to all adults. Right now, 50 is the minimum age for that second booster, unless a person has a medical reason. 

Federal officials are also pushing vaccine-makers for omicron-specific boosters.

North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services releases the state's latest coronavirus metrics Wednesday.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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