COVID-19 is changing, but so is our immunity, experts say

Experts say our immunity has changed along with COVID-19. (Credit: CNN Newsource)
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 8:59 AM CDT
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(CNN) - COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, but vaccines and immunity from prior infections have adjusted the way our bodies react to the virus that causes the disease.

The risk of hospitalization or death from the virus since the height of the pandemic has gone down, even as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are going up.

An estimated 97% of Americans either have some immunity from prior infection or through vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, new infections are happening every day and may be driven by people heading indoors and schools being back in session.

“That is usually what kicks off respiratory virus season, and that’s where we are right now,” said Anne Rimion, Department of Epidemiology professor at UCLA.

Health officials and the White House are encouraging Americans to get shots for COVID-19, RSV and the flu. (CNN, ABC, CDC, STRINGR)

Health experts say the danger from COVID-19 is still there. CDC data shows about a 22% uptick in hospitalization and deaths in the most recent week of data, but that is lower than in years past and it is a large jump because cases were low before the uptick.

The threat of new variants remains. Scientists are keeping an eye on BA.2.86, which has been picked up in very low levels of U.S. wastewater.

Experts want to see if it is more infectious or if it causes more severe disease.

”At this point, we don’t know, but there are several mutations which make it a candidate to watch for these things,“ Rimion said.

CDC advisors are expected to meet on Sept. 12 to discuss whether to recommend an updated COVID-19 booster.

”What we anticipate is the people on the list to be encouraged will be people who are older. People who are immunocompromised, those are the people who should be first in line to get it and then we’ll learn from the CDC who’s next on the list,” Rimion said.

Health experts say the updated COVID-19 booster will target omicron subvariants. It will first have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it could be up for recommendation by the CDC.

If all goes as expected, the booster could be available in the U.S. by mid-September.