Ho Ching: We are going through a BA.5 wave



We are going through a BA.5 wave.

Folks who are 80 and older, should get vaccinated and go for their 1st and 2nd boosters, if they have not already done so. The 2nd booster helps improve their resistance to severe or fatal covid infection.

Folks who are 50-80 should also have their vaccination, and at least one booster shot. A 2nd booster is advisable if their 1st booster is more than 5 months old, and:

  • they expect to travel
  • they are socially active
  • their have vulnerable folks at home
  • they have various underlying risks
  • they want to further reduce their risk of severe or fatal infection

So for the 70,000 seniors 60 and older who have not yet have their vaccination shots or boosters, please seriously consider going for their shots, esp for their primary shots plus 1st boosters. This is esp important for the elderly 80 and older to reduce their covid risks – the chances of getting infected by Omicron is much higher than for the earlier variants.

The best protection even for the bedridden is for their families, neighbours and friends to help them get vaccinated and boosted.

Adults who are 18-50, should also have their vaccination, and their 1st booster shot. They generally do not require a 2nd booster shot as their protection against severe or fatal covid infections remain excellent even after 9 months or likely longer.

The medically vulnerable among these younger adults below 50 years old can consider a 2nd booster shot. Medical vulnerability means they have specific medical conditions which increase their risk of severe or fatal covid infection.

Clear cut cases would include those who are immunocompromised like those undergoing chemo or other treatment which weaken their immune system.

Other medically vulnerable young adults would have other conditions which exacerbates their covid risks, like diabetes, obesity, various heart or other organ issues.

When in doubt whether they need a 2nd booster, they should consult their doctors, who know their specifics of their medical vulnerabilities.

For those who have had a covid infection last year, or even earlier this year, a 2nd booster is still strongly recommended for those 80 and above, and recommended for those 50-80 years old.

Primary vaccination or boosters can be taken at least 4 weeks after their infections – easier to just think one month or 4 weeks instead of 28 days.

Boosters are not recommended for teens and children, unless they have some serious medical vulnerabilities. Parents should discuss with their children’s doctors if they are worried or wish to get boosters for their kids.

Teens and kids typically have very low risk of severe or fatal covid infection, even without vaccination.

However, primary vaccination is still recommended for teens and primary school or pre-school children as they tend to be socially very active mixing boisterously in schools or with friends outside school.

Boosters are not necessary for teens and children from 5 years up, except for a tiny minority who are medically vulnerable.

Such medically vulnerable cases, whether teens and kids or adults, would best be reviewed and managed by their doctors. For instance, those undergoing chemo treatment for cancer would need to time their vaccination in between their chemo cycles to optimise the vaccine response when their immune system is not so suppressed by chemo drugs.

For the very young kids, below 5, approval has been given in the USA for their primary vaccination.

In Sg, our vaccine specialist committee and national vaccine committee are reviewing the data, and could make their recommendations soon for infants and toddlers up to 4+ years old.

While we may have reached an inflection point on the speed of doubling, we are still in the growth phase of the current wave.

At a weekly ratio of 1.65, we would quadruple every 3 weeks or so. So the momentum is still quite strong.

With the inflection when the weekly ratio starts to go down below 1.65, but not yet below 1, we would still be in a growth phase for the BA.5.

This is likely to peak sometime late July, or even in August.

Hence, we should take extra precautions in the light of the current wave, esp for the elderly and vulnerable.

While the BA.5 is likely to be mild for the vaccinated and boostes, there are some signs that the BA.5 (and its close cousin BA.4) are better at infecting our lung cells. So do use the oximeter to check for oxygen levels if we get infected and are feeling somewhat down.

With the BA.5, or other Omicron variants, past infections provide lower prevention of infection or reinfection compared to a vaccine shot.

For younger adults below 50 years old, it makes more sense to wait for the broad base vaccine to be available, possibly as soon as next year if we are lucky, but possibly over the next 2-3 years.

With the passing of time, we could also see more data on the longevity of the deep cellular protection from vaccination.

Meanwhile, we know tests with former SARS patients who have had their full vaccination have shown that they generate very broad based protection against all the various covid as well as SARS and a few other coronaviruses.

Earlier tests have also shown that some of them still have deep cellular defences against SARS itself – this is well over a decade after they recovered from SARS.

These various datapoints are giving scientists some optimism that they could develop a broad based against am important class of coronaviruses which infect humans.

Younger folks already have excellent prevention against severe and fatal covid, from primary doses plus 1 booster for 18-50 years old, and primary doses only for kids and teens above 5 years old.

Hence, for this group, it makes more sense to wait for the broad based vaccines, to help improve their protection against more new covid variants, or even against future coronavirus type pandemics.

Of course, older folks can also take an additional 3rd broad based type booster much much later if and when these become available.

Meanwhile, their 2nd booster, esp for the elderly and for seniors, would have reduce their covid risk to match those of their children who have had 1 booster.


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