Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with reported infections of the new COVID-19 variant, BA.2.86.
BA.2.86, nicknamed Pirola, was classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant under monitoring.” States other than Pennsylvania with detected samples of the variant are Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
Currently, there are no estimates on how transmissible this variant will be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent update on BA.2.86 reported that the variant does not seem to rapidly increase the number of hospitalizations or infections within the United States. However, according to CBS News, officials have said it has demonstrated the ability to spread among groups.
Although the variant is still a tiny fraction of COVID-19 cases, BA.2.86 has evolved into two branches, and infections from both branches have appeared in the United States and globally.
New COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer have proved to fight against BA.2.86 effectively. These updated vaccines are already available, and the CDC recommends that anyone over six months old get these shots to protect against the increase in COVID-19 cases predicted to be seen this fall.
Penn Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he recommends that all members of the Penn community receive the booster as soon as possible.
“The best time to get the booster is when it is available, and whether it is through CVS or a health care provider in the community, our best advice is to get it when it is available and not wait,” Dubé said.
This message was supported by Judith O’Donnell — a professor of infectious diseases at the Perelman School of Medicine — who stated that everyone, especially those who are high risk or over 50 years old, should consider getting the new vaccine.
“We are seeing a consistent uptick in COVID cases over the last six weeks, and we don’t expect that to reverse course anytime soon. Getting the vaccine now will really help prevent you from getting infected,” O’Donnell told Penn Today.
For Philadelphians, insurance delays have caused some to be unable to receive their vaccinations. Many insurers could not update billing codes in time for the updated vaccine rollout, causing customers to either reschedule their appointments or face a $190 out-of-pocket cost. Some insurers have since resolved the billing issues, and those who paid out of pocket will be reimbursed.
Earlier this month, Philadelphians who showed up for the updated COVID-19 vaccines were unable to receive them due to delivery delays.