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KPCC: COVID-19—XBB Variant Spreads, the Potential End of the Federal COVID Emergency, and More

KPCC’s AirTalk recently interviewed Kimberly Shriner, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Huntington Health, an affiliate of Cedars-Sinai, about the highly infectious and increasingly prevalent COVID-19 variant XBB.1.5, the bivalent booster, a potential new vaccine and whether the federal COVID-19 emergency declaration should continue.

Shriner told AirTalk host Larry Mantle that XBB.1.5, a subvariant of Omicron, appears to be more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants because it easily adheres to receptor sites in the nose and then replicates rapidly. She said that many of the very ill COVID-19 patients at Huntington Health had not received the bivalent booster, making them more susceptible to variants like XBB.1.5. She emphasized the importance of staying current with COVID-19 vaccines.

“We know that those vaccines, of course, don’t prevent infection, but they certainly prevent serious illness and hospitalization,” Shriner told Mantle.

Shriner said that although some people may be concerned about receiving too many COVID-19 vaccinations, they are safe, effective and an important tool for managing the pandemic.

She added that she didn’t expect a new vaccine to be available this year, “unless the virus really takes a huge turn.”

Shriner told Mantle that she hopes the federal government will continue to prioritize COVID-19 funding for more research, better tests and improved medications.

“Every time that virus replicates, it’s an opportunity for it to gain some new mutations that make it more infectious and nastier,” Shriner said. “So, we have to be very, very careful and vigilant.”

Click here to listen to the complete episode of AirTalk.