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Reinfection is likely with new subvariant – Morris

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A Wairarapa epidemiologist is concerned covid complacency will mean the second omicron wave is bigger than the last.

The new, dominant covid variant BA.5 is at the centre of New Zealand’s second wave. There had been a notable rise in hospitalisations and cases in the last two weeks in Wairarapa and nationally.

Epidemiologist Roger Morris said the new variant was highly infectious, and more spreadable during winter.

“Having covid once is not protection against the new variant.

“The covid vaccine is less protective against BA.5 compared to the earlier omicron subvariants. This is because the spike protein in the new variant is substantially different from the earlier subvariants.”

Morris said a vaccination for the subvariant would be six to 12 months away from distribution in large quantities.

He said winter made the virus more transmissible.

“It’s more to do with people being inside, having cold weather and restricted air spaces. If you have one person in a room who doesn’t know he has covid, it will likely spread to several people in that room.

“There is also a much higher chance of reinfection which did not occur during the earlier variants.

“Before, by having covid, you were protected from catching it again. Most of the infections we’ve been getting in the last two weeks are in people who already had the virus.”

Morris said the traffic light level change wouldn’t dictate the risk of getting infected.

“The risk of catching covid is more determined by their own protective measures than what level we’re in. The people I know who’ve had covid usually caught it from an event.

“It doesn’t have to be a huge raging party, often it’s a small gathering with a few friends. Schools are another place with a lot of transmission, and often the children give it to their parents.

Morris said it was still important to get a second booster if eligible.

“My wife and I went to Masterton Medical for our second boosters. We were the only ones there when the place should’ve been flat-out.

“We’re way over 90 per cent vaccinated. The younger people who are unvaccinated are dying disproportionately.”

The Ministry of Health announced eligibility for a second booster against the vaccine on June 28.


The priority list included people aged 65 over, Maori and Pacific peoples aged 50 over, residents of aged care and disability care facilities.

Immunocompromised were eligible for an additional dose.

People aged 16 years and over who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe breakthrough covid-19 illness and, people aged 16 years and over who live with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities.

All people aged 50 years and over are eligible but not on the priority list.

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