COVID spiking in Utah before new vaccine launch
COVID is spiking in Utah just before an improved vaccine is made available later this month.
Driving the news: New COVID hospital admissions were up 57% last week, according to data released this weekend by state health officials.
- The average total number of hospital patients diagnosed with COVID rose 32%.
- While no wastewater testing sites showed high enough concentrations of the virus to be considered "elevated," more than 45% saw levels rise to an intermediate "watch" status.
Yes, but: Current hospitalizations in Utah are only about a third what they were this time last year, according to state data.
The intrigue: The fall spike comes just before the release of an updated vaccine that is better tailored to the dominant variant, EG.5.
- The new vaccine is expected to be available in mid-September, the CDC confirmed last week.
Why it matters: Compared to earlier variants, EG.5 is more able to escape antibodies generated in response to previous infections and vaccines.
- That makes the new, targeted vaccine particularly important.
Reality check: While EG.5 is slippery, it isn't particularly severe. The World Health Organization deemed it a "low" public health risk at a global level.
The big picture: Although the new vaccine should help control the virus' spread, public health experts have noted that other protections are petering out.
- The end of the federal public health emergency has made free testing less available, which could make it harder to identify surges.
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