Idaho health officials raise concern over COVID immunity

Officials worry about what might come when that natural defense wanes
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 5:47 PM MDT
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Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — In the months following the original Omicron variant surge, when Idaho saw its highest case rate of the pandemic, COVID hospitalizations decreased drastically.

Now, health officials are beginning to see that trend change. “For a brief period of time there we were single digits, or even zero for a while, and it’s certainly back up,” said Joshua Kern with St. Luke’s Magic Valley.

Kern says a challenge facing the hospital system is having data that properly projects what the new Omicron mutation, BA.5, will mean in emergency rooms and ICUs.

“Even our data on BA.2 is a little outdated now. But we are seeing more immune escape with this virus, we’re seeing people getting repeat infections with this Omicron that maybe doesn’t happen with all types of virus,” he explained.

If the BA.5 variant, which is increasing cases counts in coastal states, has an impact on Idaho hospitals, Dr. Kern worries for his colleagues.

He says doctors are still working to make up ground on procedures that were delayed by previous COVID surges.

“The doctors, in particular, haven’t caught their breath. If we go right into the fall with another severe surge, I think that would be a pretty sad situation,” Kern said.

Natural immunity played a major role in keeping Idaho’s COVID cases at bay since the beginning of the year.

Now, officials worry about what might come when that natural defense wanes.

“Getting the booster if you are recommended to get the booster, because we have seen those natural immunities or vaccine immunities or vaccine immunities waning over time. That is part of our concern about going into the fall,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

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