Doctor suggests new COVID vaccine may be needed as different variants like BA.2 emerge

SAN FRANCISCO -- The nation is battling the latest wave of COVID-19 cases and one California doctor is saying that a new vaccine may be needed as we continue seeing new variants of the virus.

Over the past two years, working from home, health mandates and other protections have kept cases lower.

UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says that has now allowed for infection to spread as people return to normal with overall lower natural immunity.

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"Everyone's tired of the pandemic and we wanted to recapture some of the missed opportunities we had during the pandemic by meeting people, etc," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "But make no mistake about it, there's a lot of COVID out there right now."

So how can we protect ourselves?

Dr. Chin-Hong says it's best to keep your COVID smarts about you, get boosted and mask indoors if concerned about serious infection. But he thinks a bigger measure may be needed.

"I think we do need a new vaccine because the virus has evolved very much since the original vaccines which were based on the original variant," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "But now, if you want to prevent infection, we may need to have a new vaccine."

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New data shows California's Bay Area is getting hit harder than other areas of the state.

Nine of the top ten counties in California with the highest COVID infection rates are in the Bay Area, according to state data. San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Cruz are the top three on the list.

UCSF's Dr. Monica Gandhi says hospitalizations are only slightly seeing an uptick if not remaining stable throughout the Bay Area even though cases are going up.

"What is happening is that cases go up, but our hospitalizations are staying low," Dr. Gandhi said. "That was actually true with the vaccinated with omicron BA.1 and Delta, but now it's everyone because there's been so much natural immunity."

Meanwhile, in the Central Valley, Dr. Kenny Banh with UCSF Fresno is concerned that the underreporting of positive results from at-home kits could skew the numbers.

"The availability of at-home tests has increased and that's a wonderful thing. Don't say that it's bad, but the problem is that people are getting positive tests and not necessarily reporting it, not necessarily coming and getting a PCR test. You have a phone number to call and very few people are doing that," Dr. Banh said.

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