(CTN NEWS) – As the seasons change and we brace ourselves for the upcoming fall and winter, a familiar but formidable challenge looms on the horizon – the coexistence of COVID-19 and influenza.
In response to this impending double threat, Chinese doctors and medical experts are strongly advocating for the public to receive updated vaccines by the end of October.
This urgent call stems from a groundbreaking study led by renowned Chinese infectious disease expert, Dr. Zhang Wenhong, which has shed light on the weakening neutralization capabilities of our current vaccines against the ever-evolving Omicron subvariants.
The Omicron Saga
Since its ominous debut in late 2019, the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has relentlessly circumnavigated the globe, leaving no corner untouched.
However, it was in November 2021 that the Omicron variant seized the spotlight and became the predominant cause for concern in most countries, as highlighted in a recent article published by the Emerging Microbes & Infections journal on September 5.
The Omicron variant’s chameleonic nature has been a cause for alarm. Over the past few years, it has metamorphosed into various subvariants, including BA.1, BA.2, BA.4, BA.5, BF.7, and the most recent XBB.1.5.
These mutations have exacted a heavy toll, resulting in numerous fatalities and substantial economic losses, as attested by the aforementioned article.
The Need for Updated Vaccines
A significant revelation emerged from Dr. Zhang Wenhong’s study. It underscored that individuals who had received two doses of vaccination exhibited significantly higher neutralizing antibodies against select Omicron subvariants, such as WT, BA.2, BA.5, and BF.7.
However, the same robust response was not observed against others like BQ.1.1, CH.1.1, and XBB.1.5.
Furthermore, the study indicated that administering a booster dose against the original virus post-breakthrough infection did not significantly enhance an individual’s humoral responses against the latest Omicron subvariants.
Hence, a pressing need exists for continuous evaluation of at-risk populations and the efficacy of current vaccination strategies against the latest Omicron subvariants.
It is crucial that our future vaccination strategies prioritize bolstering effective neutralization against the evolving variants that continually challenge our defenses.
Embracing the XBB Lineage
Amidst these challenges, Dr. Zhuang Shilihe, a prominent expert from Guangzhou closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, recommends that the public prioritize vaccination against the dominant XBB subvariant.
Notably, Chinese health authorities took a significant step on June 8 by approving the emergency usage of a vaccine developed by WestVac Biopharma and West China Medical Center, Sichuan University.
This marked a historic milestone as the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use against the XBB lineages of SARS-CoV-2, according to WestVac Biopharma.
Dr. Zhuang anticipates that more updated vaccines tailored to combat these evolving subvariants may receive approval in China in the coming months, providing additional tools in our arsenal against the virus.
A Dual Defense: COVID-19 and Influenza Vaccines
Dr. Zhuang Shilihe emphasizes that getting both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines together by the end of October is prudent.
As we approach the 2023 National Day holidays, an expected surge in travel across the country raises concerns of a low-level outbreak of both COVID-19 and influenza following the festivities.
A Glimmer of Hope: EG.5 Subvariant
Despite the challenges posed by the EG.5 subvariant, as reported by Dr. Peng Jie from the Southern Medical University, there is a silver lining. Most COVID-19 cases reported in clinics are secondary infections with mild symptoms.
This is attributed to the fortunate fact that EG.5 can be neutralized by antibodies from previous COVID-19 infections, as explained by Dr. Peng.
A Unified Front for Control
In conclusion, experts unanimously stress that, while challenges persist, the situation remains manageable as long as the public promptly receives vaccinations and diligently follows preventive measures.
The urgent call for updated vaccines underscores the unwavering commitment of the medical community to safeguarding public health in the face of an ever-evolving pandemic landscape.
As we navigate the upcoming seasons, vaccination remains our most potent weapon in the battle against COVID-19 and influenza.
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