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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday recommended the use of redesigned COVID-19 booster shots for people aged 12 years and older to target the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus.

Compared with the earlier Omicron BA.2 subvariant, currently dominant Omicron BA.5 is linked with higher odds of causing a second SARS-COV-2 infection regardless of vaccination status, a study from Portugal suggests.

Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Wednesday they had started a mid-stage study of a modified COVID-19 vaccine which targets both the original as well as the BA.2 Omicron subvariant.

China will pay close attention to variants of coronavirus in the long term, focusing on their transmission capability, pathogenicity and ability to evade immunity, a Chinese disease control official said on Thursday.

The BA.5 subvariant of Omicron was estimated to make up 77.9% of the circulating coronavirus variants in the United States for the week ended July 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday.

BA.5, part of the Omicron family, is the latest coronavirus variant to cause widespread waves of infection globally. According to the World Health Organization’s most recent report, it was behind 52% of cases sequenced in late June, up from 37% in one week. In the United States, it is estimated to be causing around 65% of infections.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that COVID-19 remains a global emergency, nearly 2-1/2 years after it was first declared.

The White House said on Tuesday it will ensure Americans continue to have easy access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing to contain the fast-spreading Omicron BA.5 subvariant that now makes up a majority of cases in the United States.

The fast-spreading BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of Omicron are estimated to make up a combined 70.1% of the coronavirus variants in the United States as of July 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

Coronavirus vaccines tweaked to include the Omicron variant strain can improve protection when used as a booster, the European Medicines Agency and other global health regulators said on Friday.