QMG Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Hala Saad

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen restrictions surrounding COVID-19 loosened, but remaining aware of the latest with the virus is important. We spoke with QMG Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Hala Saad about some of the latest developments with COVID-19.

Has COVID become an endemic versus a pandemic? What’s the difference?
In epidemiology, ‘endemic’ means that the disease is always present at a baseline level, so it’s not down to zero. There are observable cases. But unlike a pandemic or epidemic, in which a disease’s behavior is often surprising or unexpected, an illness that has become endemic has become more predictable. I do not think we are at an endemic level yet. We are still seeing unpredictable surges of the disease variants globally.”

How high is the risk of Omicron’s BA.2 variant? We will see another spike in cases in the U.S.?
“BA.2 variant is now the dominant variant globally, and it is more transmissible so we will definitely start seeing more of it here, but it is not likely to cause severe disease.”

Should we be masking up and taking more precautions with the news of BA.2?
“We should continue to follow the CDC guidelines in terms of masking and precautions.”

What makes BA.2 different from other variants?
It is more contagious, also it is called ‘the stealth’ virus because it is more difficult to diagnose, but it is less likely to cause disease.”

Is being vaccinated and boosted still the best protection against this virus?
“As with the other variants in the Omicron family, vaccines are less effective against BA.2 than against previous variants and protection declines over time. However protection is restored by a vaccine booster particularly for preventing hospitalization and death.”

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a fourth booster for adults 50 and over. Can you explain the FDA’s announcement?
“Emerging evidence suggests that a second booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine improves protection against severe COVID-19 and is not associated with new safety concerns.”

For more information on the COVID vaccine, visit qmgvaccines.com.