COVID-19 needs no introduction to the current world. We all have been there where the Movement Control Order (MCO) started in 2020 and more than one MCO for sure throughout the year until the Recovery MCO (RMCO) in 2021. These years were the hardest for everyone especially those directly affected by the virus and have symptoms of COVID-19. Fortunately, at least for now, COVID-19 is under control. Although this does not mean that there is no case at all in the country, we can breathe better and live normally knowing that COVID-19 is less likely to be spread as it was back when it first started. This could be from the vaccination rules that help to reduce the severity of COVID-19 and provide protection against the virus. This does not only lead to low numbers of the infection but also reduces the number of people getting severely ill by the virus.
You might have heard about the many variants of COVID-19 virus throughout the past years. Virus in general tends to mutate easily and every variant of the virus is different in structures. Differences in the structure of the virus lead to the different function or ability of the virus to invade humans. The human cells lack proofreading skills that make the virus mutations more rapidly than human cells do and the virus becomes much better at evading the human’s immune system. The newer COVID variant known as EG.5 or known as Eris is a month old news and now there is the newest COVID variant of BA.2.86 known as Pirola. This shows that the rapid changes in the COVID-19 variants has caused researchers and scientists to find new vaccines that can protect humans against these viruses.
You may wonder what is the new bivalent COVID vaccine. Bivalent vaccines work by stimulating an immune response against 2 different antigens which originated from viruses. Bivalent vaccine is different from monovalent vaccine as monovalent vaccines only contain or encode spike protein of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. Bivalent vaccine is the updated vaccine that protects against the Omicron BA.1 variant on top of the original strain. This means that bivalent vaccines address both the original strain and the more contagious variants that have emerged since. In short, the bivalent vaccine serves as a booster that builds upon the previous vaccination to keep the immune system ready and prevent serious illness.
There are actually newer vaccines available up to the time this article is written. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) committee recommended everyone 6 months or older to receive the newest COVID shot. This shot is specifically designed to target the prominent variants of the omicron strain. In theory, the updated vaccines help the immune system evade the most infectious variants of the moments and can be used as first-line COVID vaccines for those who never received initial immunizations. This specific shot is known as monovalent shot since it contains one component of the XBB.1.5 variant. Individuals in certain risk groups may receive additional doses with guidance from their doctor. People at higher risk for severe illness should get an updated COVID vaccine as soon as possible. These recommendations are currently limited to the people in the United States.
The recent COVID virus has certainly raised concern to the effectiveness and reliability of the previous vaccine. The ability of EG.5 to evade neutralisation with antibodies means more people are likely to be infected with it, although they have been previously vaccinated against COVID-19 and/or infected with earlier versions of the Omicron variant. Neutralising antibodies are molecules that bind to viruses and destroy it before it is able to invade cells and starts replicating in number. It is an important early line of defence against infection.
Thus, the ability of EG.5 to partially evade antibody neutralisation means COVID-19 vaccines they have received previously are less likely to protect people against this infection. It is important to note that even if it is likely to protect against EG.5, at the very least, being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will provide a stronger immune system against the EG.5 compared to no vaccination at all.
It is important to get vaccinated even though you might be thinking that COVID seems like a normal thing to live with. Remember, the ability for the virus to evolve has made the previous vaccine may be less effective in protecting humans against the infection. The previous vaccination may also start to wear off and cause the immune system to not be in its optimal state. This is very serious for people who easily fall sick such as those with immune system problems as they can get serious COVID symptoms once affected by the virus. Thus, it is vital to get updated with the vaccines available and to get it whenever possible. Getting a booster can help further enhance the immune system to fight against COVID.
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