Eric Topol IS VERY DISAPPOINT (boldface mine):
On the other hand, the BA.5 spike has more than 15 different mutations than either of the newer variants, which not only reflect further evolution of the virus, but also how poorly aligned that bivalent BA.5 booster is with the virus circulating now. Even with FLip gaining traction, we’d be far better off with the new XBB.1.5 monovalent booster than what we have now.
The new Covid booster was expected in late August or early September, but recently the new CDC director, Mandy Cohen said on NPR it may not be available until October. That’s an unacceptably long delay from the initial projection and expectations, especially with what has been happening with the virus’s evolution. No less the timing that schools are starting soon. Too many high-risk people, because of being immunocompromised or of advanced age, will unnecessarily be vulnerable to hospitalizations or deaths.
To be clear, we are not looking at an “Omicron event” now, whereby there will be a dramatic increase in transmission and adverse outcomes due to a boatload of new mutations. But these changes in the spike of the virus (and other components not reviewed here, such as in the ORF1a, ORF1b, the nucleocapsid, etc) are a signal that there’s more to come with SARS-CoV-2 and we have a bad track record of always lagging behind. And as I previously reviewed, we have an estimated 20% chance of having another Omicron event in the next couple of years—one that would certainly challenge prior immunity, be it by vaccinations, infections, or their combination.
The $5 billion Project NextGen is supposed to be accelerating nasal vaccines, better variant-proof universal vaccines, and monoclonal antibodies that work, but there’s no sign of life yet for this initiative…
Yet we’re not using our big advantage—human intelligence—to get ahead of it. Even just getting an updated, monovalent, well aligned (XBB.1.5) booster out there in a timely manner, which is not a monumental achievement, by any means. We can and must do better than this…..
This was going to be a longer post, but life got in the way (as always, you’re entitled to the Mad Biologist’s Money Back Guarantee™), but the tl;dr version is that, while Republicans likely* would be worse on COVID (the phrase “Surgeon General Ladapo” should terrify everyone), but Democratic voters need to face up to the reality of how badly the Biden administration has performed regarding COVID. This is implicitly happening in some respects: while accusing Biden of failure (rightly or wrongly) always generates Biden defenders, on COVID-related matters, the Biden defenders never rally to his side on this. It’s an implicit admission of failure.
Democrats really need to start doing better, and fucking up vaccination timing for the fall season surely doesn’t qualify as “doing better”–the lack of alacrity is appalling. And let’s not get started on the push to send employees, including federal employees, back to the office** just as COVID, flu, and RSV seasons would be kicking in.
*There would be a non-negligible chance that a Republican administration would accelerate the development of second generation vaccines. Whether they would be an improvement, though, is unclear.
**There are lots of non-health reasons for mostly remote work (obviously depending on the job), but starting the push back to work just as COVID will likely be taking off is fucking stupid.