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Virus Expert Says Be Ready for This to Happen Next

New vaccines, a BA.5 wave, and more.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

With the BA.5 subvariant on the rise in the US, how should people prepare? "We're in a very good point in that most people in the United States have now been vaccinated or may have actually had COVID before, so there is a lot of immunity to serious disease," says infectious disease specialist Richard T. Ellison III, MD, professor of medicine and hospital epidemiologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center. "Having said that, this is a virus that is all over the world. Some people are immune-suppressed, or their immune system is not that strong, and they can have an infection for prolonged time periods. And that allows the virus to change and mutate. Not as many people are getting sick, but this virus keeps evolving into variants that are spread very, very easily." Here is what to expect next with COVID-19, experts say. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Vaccination Doesn't Protect Against Virus Symptoms

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Virus experts are warning that even fully vaccinated people may still experience virus symptoms such as loss of taste and smell. "We know that vaccination or even prior infection potentially cannot protect smell and taste function from the virus's effect, just like flu and cold," says Kai Zhao, PhD, director of the Nasal Physiology and Therapeutic Center in the Department of Otolaryngology at Ohio State University College of Medicine. "We may repeatedly get COVID-19, and we may have smell and taste impacted by the infections. So, I think this will become a very large public health problem that you will have among certain populations that get repeated infected by the virus, and there could be ongoing smell and taste loss throughout the population of a much higher prevalence than we see for flu and cold. So, that will be a public health concern for the future."

2

A BA.5 Wave Is Imminent

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A New York City virus expert warns that a BA.5 wave is about to hit. "The decline of reported #COVID19 cases in NYC has stopped. Reported cases are at a high plateau, which means actual transmission is very high when you account for the >20x under-counting. This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave," tweeted Weill Cornell epidemiologist Dr. Jay Varma. "Experience from other countries means there will be another big increase in NYC #COVID19 infections, including among those who have had #Omicron in past few months."

3

FDA Recommends New Shots For Fall

Woman wearing face mask looking at camera showing thumbs up after getting the covid-19 vaccine.
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FDA virus experts have voted to advise new COVID-19 shots for the fall, in an effort to curb a potential Omicron surge. The panel are concerned about waning vaccine immunity and new mutations of the virus causing a winter outbreak. "For that reason, we have to give serious consideration to a booster campaign this fall to help protect us," says Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA's vaccine division. "The better the match of the vaccine to the circulating strain, we believe may correspond to improved vaccine effectiveness and potentially to a better durability of protection."

4

COVID-19 Rebound Is a Thing

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It's possible to test negative on COVID-19 tests after taking Pfizer's oral antiviral medication Paxlovid, and then test positive again days later—which is what happened to Dr. Anthony Fauci, 81. "When [the symptoms] increased, given my age, I went on Paxlovid for five days and I felt really quite well, really just a bit of rhinorrhea and fatigue," Dr. Fauci says. "It was sort of what people are referring to as a 'Paxlovid rebound.'" 

5

Can Vaccinations Keep Up With New Virus Mutations?

Female doctor or nurse giving shot or vaccine to a patient's shoulder. Vaccination and prevention against flu or virus pandemic.
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"Anticipating what the virus will do next is the job of those who do surveillance in epidemiology," says vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, co-developer of the AstraZeneca vaccine. "But if a new sequence is thought to be becoming dominant, our problem is that making a new version of the vaccine takes time and has to be tested and approved. What's been happening, as we go through one wave after another, is that the virus has been too quick. Regulators cannot approve a vaccine unless they can see the clinical data, then you have to scale up manufacturing to produce the vaccine in quantity. Developers are still using the original vaccines, which are supplying good protection against the disease."

6

How to Stay Safe Out There

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Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more