Covid-19 variant keeps changing warns immunologist

An Auckland University immunologist is warning that a new Omicron variant of Covid-19 keeps changing and tends to get better at evading the immunity that we have developed.

The BA.2.75 subvariant, is a recently identified second generation subvariant of BA.2, the dominant variant currently circulating in New Zealand.  

Early evidence from overseas suggests BA.2.75 is slightly more transmissible but unlikely to cause severe illness as the previous Delta variant.

PM News reports Dr Helen Petousis-Harris says people need to be sensible and not rely on vaccines doing all the work. 

“You have to also help it out a bit. People who have been vaccinated and had a booster and had an infection have reasonable protection against severe disease.

“There’s a lot of Covid around and people need to remember those really important protective measures such as wearing masks.”

Covid-19 claimed 23 lives in the latest weekly update from the Ministry of Health with 32,010 new community cases and 367 reinfections.

“Symptoms are not always the same for everybody. Feeling that loss of smell, headaches, runny nose and a cough, aches and pains, dizzy spells. Some people lose their sense of taste,” says Petousis-Harris.

“There’s a whole long list of symptoms people may or may not experience. It will vary from person to person how many symptoms they might get. 

“I know people who did not have the runny nose but felt really tired - all they wanted to do was sleep. This was their way of dealing with the infection.”

Petousis-Harris says not all RAT tests are accurate as a lot of it will depend on the manufacturer.

“Be aware If you’re testing you might still test negative even though you might have it. Nothing is 100 percent.

“I’m not sure about the RAT tests in NZ whether they’ve been validated.  Different manufacturers have different variations and they all need to be independently checked. 

“Two in 10 people will be positive but still test negative.”

Petousis-Harris is encouraging Pacific people between the ages of 40 to 49 to get their second booster shots. 

A new paediatric Pfitzer vaccine for young children between the ages of six months to four years who are immune-compromised or at high risk of severe disease will be available from February 2023.

This decision has been cleared by Medsafe and officially approved by the Director General of Health and Cabinet.