March 2, 2024

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JN.1 Dominance Marks US COVID Shift: Vaccination Rates Rise

JN.1 Dominance Marks US COVID Shift: Vaccination Rates Rise | Trends Encouraging



JN.1 Dominance Marks US COVID Shift: Vaccination Rates Rise | Trends Encouraging

Confirmation: The peak of the COVID-19 wave in the United States is over. JN.1 has become the predominant strain, raising questions about whether it is a stroke of luck for humanity or a warning.

As countries around the world ease restrictions, the predominant strains of COVID-19 are becoming more consistent.

Despite the discontinuation of comprehensive monitoring in the United States, continuous data updates provide valuable insights for other countries.


BA.2.86 Offspring JN.1 Emerges as the Dominant Virus in the United States

On January 19, 2024, the U.S. CDC updated the data on the predominant strains of the COVID-19 virus and their proportions in the United States.

The data reveals that from January 7 to January 20, the JN.1 strain accounted for an absolute majority of 85.7%, making it the most frequently detected COVID-19 strain in the country.

JN.1, a descendant of the alarming BA.2.86 COVID-19 strain from 10 weeks ago (3.5%), 8 weeks ago (8.1%), 6 weeks ago (21.4%), 4 weeks ago (44.2%), and 2 weeks ago (61.6%), has now reached 85.7%.

While still within the Omicron variant family, there has been a significant shift in the predominant strain from the XBB family to the BA.2.86 family.

JN.1 Dominance Marks US COVID Shift: Vaccination Rates Rise | Trends Encouraging(source: U.S. CDC)


Turning Point in the U.S. COVID-19 Situation

The earliest indicators of changes in the pandemic are reflected in the concentration of the COVID-19 virus in wastewater and the positivity rate of COVID-19 testing. Both indicators suggest a worsening situation in the United States.

Increase in COVID-19 Virus Concentration in Wastewater

According to the CDC’s report on wastewater monitoring updated to January 13, 2024, the concentration of the COVID-19 virus in U.S. wastewater has decreased to 9.38 from the previous two weeks’ 12.85, indicating a significant decline. This suggests that the COVID-19 situation in the United States has reached a turning point and is heading towards relief.

Despite predictions of a significant increase in infections, symptomatic cases and hospitalizations among COVID-19 patients have not correspondingly increased.

Slight Decrease in COVID-19 Testing Positivity Rate

Based on data updated by the U.S. CDC to January 13, the COVID-19 virus detection rate in the United States has decreased by 1% in the last two weeks (as shown by the orange line), with the latest weekly positivity rate at 11.8%.

Substantial Reduction in COVID-19 Proportion of Emergency Room Visits

This is a crucial indicator of the pandemic’s severity. Data updated by the U.S. CDC to January 6 shows a 19.0% reduction in the proportion of emergency room visits attributed to COVID-19 in the last two weeks (as shown by the orange line).


Decrease in COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are key indicators of the severity of the pandemic. According to the U.S. CDC data up to January 13, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the past week was 32,681, a 9.6% decrease (blue bar graph). The decrease in hospitalizations confirms that the peak of the COVID-19 wave in the United States has passed.

Following the COVID-19 course, the latest peak in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 10.3% higher than the previous week (as shown by the orange line).

The pattern of the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic in 2023-2024 aligns with previous years, with the winter peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations typically occurring in early January. As the holiday season ends, mobility decreases, leading to a gradual easing of the situation.


Vaccination Rate Surpasses 20% in the United States

As of January 12, 2024, the vaccination rate for adults in the United States against the new COVID-19 variant (targeting XBB.1.5 antigen) is 21.4%, with a significant increase in the rate among the elderly at 41.5%.

Meanwhile, the proportion of adults vaccinated against the flu is 46.8%, and the vaccination rate among the elderly is 74.1%. Additionally, 20.1% of elderly patients have received the RSV vaccine.

In the past week, deaths due to COVID-19 accounted for 3.5% of all deaths in the United States, six times higher than the flu-related death rate of 0.9%. However, overall, the number of deaths caused by the COVID-19 virus during the winter of 2023-2024 has not exceeded previous years’ figures.

Many U.S. medical institutions have consistently mandated influenza vaccination for healthcare workers, but in 2023, there is no such requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Expert Comments:

On one hand, wastewater virus testing in the United States indicates a high incidence of COVID-19 during the winter of 2023-2024; on the other hand, clinical data shows that although the number of symptomatic and severe COVID-19 cases has peaked, the U.S. has not experienced a corresponding “tsunami-like” surge in hospitalizations.

The high transmissibility of JN.1 is evident, but in the face of a population that has undergone repeated screening for the COVID-19 virus over four years, the pathogenicity of JN.1 is not high.

Eric considers that there may be cross-reactivity between neutralizing antibodies against JN.1 and XBB.1.5, which could enhance the immune response for vaccinated individuals or those previously infected. Additionally, the current population can be referred to as “COVID-19 survivors,” having endured multiple rounds of attacks by the COVID-19 virus and received multiple doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The significance of changes in the main strain of COVID-19 is substantial. BA.2.86 and its offspring JN.1 were identified 10 months after XBB took dominance. During these 10 months of XBB prevalence, a near-monopoly of COVID-19 mutant strains within the XBB family and its descendants was established. The sudden emergence of BA.2.86 suggests a potential origin from chronic infection, challenging the prevailing notion that COVID-19 is primarily an acute infectious disease. This has led to the initiation of clinical trials for the continued use of paxlovid antiviral treatment for long-term COVID-19.

The numerous mutations of BA.2.86 have caused concern in the scientific community. The large-scale prevalence of BA.2.86 and JN.1 is seen by Eric as both “luck for humanity” and a crucial warning. Some research also emphasizes the need to pay attention to the potential reverse zoonotic transmission of the COVID-19 virus from animals such as deer

to humans. In the event of a new highly mutated strain with immune evasion capabilities, it would undoubtedly pose another potential disaster for humanity.

Simultaneously, it is evident that the general public is increasingly tired of and rarely discussing COVID-19 infections. Despite COVID-19 causing four times more deaths than the flu, the vaccination rate is still less than half of the flu vaccination rate. To date, a broad-spectrum vaccine for COVID-19 has not been found, casting a shadow over preparations for unknown mutant strains.


New Strategies for COVID-19 Prevention

The evolving COVID-19 situation is driven by three factors:

A) mutations with stronger immune evasion capabilities,

B) seasonal changes,

C) population movements (such as nationwide holiday travel).

New patterns for preventing COVID-19 can be identified:

– Receive updated COVID-19 vaccinations 1-3 months before the expected peak of the pandemic.
– Employ protective measures during the peak, such as wearing masks and reducing social interactions, with special attention to elderly individuals.
– Isolate and test promptly if symptoms occur, especially to prevent transmission to immunocompromised individuals.
– Seek medical attention promptly for immunocompromised individuals, with the potential use of antiviral drugs if necessary.

JN.1 Dominance Marks US COVID Shift: Vaccination Rates Rise | Trends Encouraging

References:

  1.  https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#variant-proportions
  2.  https://www.cdc.gov/nwss/rv/COVID19-nationaltrend.html
  3. https://erictopol.substack.com/p/sotp-state-of-the-pandemic
  4. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#maps_positivity-week
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/data-research/dashboard/vaccination-trends-adults.html
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/data-research/dashboard/illness-severity.html

(source:internet, reference only)


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