INDIANAPOLIS — As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Indiana, WRTV’s Nikki DeMentri sat down with Regenstrief Institute’s Director of Public Health Informatics, Dr. Brian Dixon.
Q: What is the reality of COVID right now in the state of Indiana, specifically Central Indiana?
A: "The reality right now is that we're seeing an increase in cases. We've seen a steady rise in cases over the last several weeks and we're seeing continued increases, particularly in the urban areas. That's where a lot of the testing is occurring, though. I mean, one of the challenges we have is that with the abundance of home tests, some people are just using the home tests, or they're not even testing themselves at all, they have mild symptoms, and they just stay home and choose not to get tested. That does skew some of the numbers a little bit, but in terms of the numbers, we've actually been seeing steady increases over the last four weeks. We are now around 2000 cases a day in the state of Indiana and we're likely to see that number go up in the coming weeks."
Q: Why are COVID cases increasing during a non-traditional time of year?
A: “The reason it's happening right now is because of the dominant subvariant that's circulating amongst the population. That's known as B a five. It's a subvariant of the Omicron variant. And it's highly transmissible.”
Q: Why are we seeing more breakthrough infections right now?
A: “The reason is because of the subvariant. It's over half of the new cases. And so this variant can reinfect people. In fact, some of the data is showing that it can reinfect someone within four to six weeks of their prior infection.”
Q: How is vaccine effectiveness against these variants?
A: “Right now, our research on the Omicron variant shows that individuals who have recently completed their two-dose series or they have a recent booster are still protected against hospitalization from the virus. And so that's the good news is that most of our data though, is with you know, the earlier subvariants of Omicron very little data is out on BA.5. However, early data suggests that BA.5 is more resistant to the antibodies created by vaccines or prior infection, so this is worrisome. Future vaccines that are in development right now will be targeting specific subvariants. This fall, I think, we could expect some new vaccines coming on the market that will protect people from a broader range of variants of [the COVID] virus, and that will give us stronger immunity as we head into the fall and winter season."
Q: When you talk about vaccine boosters for the fall, what timing does that mean?
A: "It's hard to tell. Right now these vaccines are in the production pipeline, they're going to be fast-tracked for approval when they're ready. I would anticipate though, that they won't be ready probably until September or October. I don't think people were anticipating this earlier surge due to add new subvariants several months ago when these new vaccines were put into the production pipeline."