Omicron Variants BA.4 and BA.5 Threaten Another COVID-19 Surge


Omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5, new variants with the ability to overcome antibodies, threaten the possibility of another stage 5 wave of COVID-19. Graphic by Yunoo Kim

Throughout the spring of 2022, deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have drastically declined. While back in January, about 150,000 people were hospitalized on a seven day average due to the virus, a mere 13,000 were admitted during the first week of May. Despite this drastic change in numbers, new sublineages of the Omicron strain, BA.4 and BA.5, could prove a threat, as they could potentially spark yet another COVID-19 wave.

The sublineages were first detected in South Africa, similar to the original strain of Omicron BA.1. Despite a high number of vaccinated individuals in the country, a relatively high amount of 4000 people were infected according to the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Scientists predict South Africa may undergo yet another stage 5 wave of COVID-19.

Studies have shown that the new subvariants of Omicron are far more transmissible than former subvarients, as they can overcome more antibodies. Even people who are vaccinated could be at risk of contracting the virus. However, there is a lower risk of death or the requirement of hospitalization upon infection. Despite the reduction of risk to one’s health, subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 nonetheless place a significant pressure on hospitals across the globe.

As new variants are introduced, the necessity for global vaccine access remains prevalent, as 2.8 billion people around the world have yet to receive their first dosage. Although vaccinated people are still at risk of contracting the new variants, the vaccine proceeds to reduce the chances of infection, as well as the harmful effects it may have on the individual. In the meantime, a new candidate booster vaccine has been presented by Moderna to prevent further spread of the virus. A new booster vaccine such as this could prove extremely necessary as new variants such as BA.4 and BA.5 arise.