Beshear urges vaccinations as new COVID variant spreads across the country

Beshear urges vaccinations as new COVID variant spreads across the country
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 4:20 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - If you have had COVID in the past few weeks, chances are, you’ve experienced the newest sub-variant.

The World Health Organization says XBB1.5 is the most transmissible form of Omicron to date. It is making up more than a quarter of cases in the U.S.

“It has risen very quickly across the country,” said White House COVID-19 Respons Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. “It’s gone from being almost non-existent a month ago to now making up a large portion of all the infections, and that increase is very, very fast.”

As it quickly spreads, Governor Andy Beshear says XBB1.5 is the biggest thing his office is watching.

“We don’t know a lot about it other than it is even more contagious than the last Omicron variant, which means it’s one of the most contagious viruses in the history of planet earth or at least in our lifetime,” said Governor Beshear.

Dr. Nicholas Van Sickels specializes in infectious diseases at UK HealthCare.

“If you look even over the last few weeks for this new variant, you can see an impressive increase in the percentage of cases,” said Dr. Van Sickels. “We’re seeing over a quarter of cases in the united states the new variant. 70% or more in the eastern united states where we thought it originated.”

Dr. Van Sickels says getting your COVID booster can help protect you against the new variant. He says the new variant has gained some mutations that give it an advantage in avoiding some countermeasures, but not all of them.

“The booster vaccine has the two pieces of the COVID,” said Dr. Van Sickels. “The old COVID and then the newer kind of Omicron variant inside of it do show protection.”

As experts recommend getting vaccinated, Governor Beshear is raising concerns regarding state vaccination data.

“Unfortunately, data from the CDC indicates that less than 12% of Kentuckians 5 years or older have not received that booster. So please, schedule it,” said Governor Beshear.

The Fayette County Health Department is also urging people to get protected against COVID with the vaccine or the newly updated booster doses. They are offering same-day vaccine appointments every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.