Oct 11, 2022 - Health

White House monitoring rise of COVID subvariants, but "confident" in vaccines

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha speaks during the press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 11, 2022

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during a press briefing on Oct. 11. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said Tuesday that the White House is monitoring "the rise of several subvariants."

Driving the news: "We are carefully monitoring the rise of several subvariants that are evolving rapidly and emerging around the world, including ones that evade some of our treatments," Jha said at a White House press briefing.

Between the lines: Jha said that the White House is tracking three or four subvariants most closely around the world, "because they either have a lot more immune evasiveness or they render many of our treatments ineffective."

  • The variants that are being observed arise from the Omicron subvariant BA.2 or BA.5, Jha said, which "means our updated bivalent vaccine should provide a much higher degree of protection."
  • "I'm very confident that our vaccines will continue to work very well, certainly against protecting against serious illness," he said, adding that they'll still conduct studies to figure out the level of protection offered.

Flashback: Last week, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said that "we should not be surprised" if a new COVID-19 variant emerges this winter.

  • "We should anticipate that we very well may get another variant that would emerge that would elude the immune response that we've gotten from infection and/or from vaccination," he said.

The big picture: Although COVID-19 cases have been trending downward in recent months, there is a particular risk of an uptick in the coming months.

  • Last winter, the Omicron variant led to a surge in COVID-19 cases and since then, there have been multiple Omicron sub-lineages.
  • COVID has killed more than 6.5 million people and infected more than 622 million worldwide, per Johns Hopkins University's online tracker.

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