In an untimely reminder that the pandemic is far from over, a new variant has snuck onto the global stage.

BA.2 is a subvariant of omicron that was first reported in late 2021. Even more transmissible than the first omicron subvariant, it is quickly becoming the predominant source of infections around the world. Luckily, BA.2 seems to produce less severe disease compared to its predecessors, and immunity from vaccination or prior infection should protect most people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be another wave.

We asked immunologists Prakash Nagarkatti and Mitzi Nagarkatti of the University of South Carolina what the U.S. might expect as BA.2 makes its rounds. “Whether there will be another devastating surge depends on how many people are vaccinated or have been previously infected with BA.1,” they write. Given that the U.S. is lagging behind other wealthy nations in vaccinations and boosters, it might be too soon to say we’re out of the clear.

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Vivian Lam

Assistant Health and Biomedicine Editor

BA.2, one of three main omicron sublineages, is sweeping the world. BlackJack3D/iStock via Getty Images Plus

What is the new COVID-19 variant BA.2, and will it cause another wave of infections in the US?

Prakash Nagarkatti, University of South Carolina; Mitzi Nagarkatti, University of South Carolina

The latest addition to the omicron lineage has been making waves in Europe. Whether it will do the same in the US depends on rates of vaccination and prior infection.

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