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6.9.22 – What Should I Know About the Variants?

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. The COVID vaccines, masks, at home testing, and treatment are how you can continue to protect you and your loved ones from COVID. Today, let’s talk about COVID infection and immunity.

What should I know about the variants?
Variants are different versions of the COVID virus that either spread differently, have a change in severity, or have a different response to vaccines or treatments. The Omicron variant is dominant right now, and it even has its own subtypes. You may have heard of BA.2, BA.4, BA.5 or other subtypes. Each of these subtypes spreads easily, and infection with one subtype doesn’t prevent reinfection with another subtype. It’s hard to keep track of all the variants and subtypes, but the bottom line is that COVID is continuing to circulate.

If I already got COVID, do I need to get vaccinated or boosted?
Immunity due to infection is weaker than immunity due to vaccination. We’ve known this about adults, and a recent study in children demonstrates the same thing. And, infection based immunity goes down over time. So, even if you’ve had COVID, get your first dose of the vaccine or a booster because vaccination produces a stronger immune response compared to infection.

Should I get a booster if I’m eligible?
Yes. Boosters are available for people 5 years and older, so get it when you’re eligible. Whether you’ve been vaccinated, have gotten infected with COVID, or both, your immunity goes down over time. And we just don’t know when the next variant will come or how easily it will spread. The best way to deal with this uncertainty is to stay up to date on your vaccine to ensure that you have the best level of protection you can get.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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