UK authorizes booster vaccine design to target omicron variant

Dr. Alok Patel, a physician at Stanford Children’s Health, discusses how the new booster could affect the fight against COVID-19 and medical experts’ concerns about monkeypox on college campuses.
4:53 | 08/16/22

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Transcript for UK authorizes booster vaccine design to target omicron variant
- The UK has authorized a new booster vaccine designed to protect against both the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron BA.1 subvariant. This comes as we learn today that the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, has tested positive for COVID herself. I want to bring in physician at Stanford Children's Health and ABC's medical contributor, Dr. Alok Patel, for more on all of this. Dr. Patel, thanks for being here. Let's start with the First Lady. The White House says she's experiencing mild symptoms. She's been prescribed Paxlovid. The president just recovered from COVID himself. So is it possible he could get it again? They do say he's a close contact. - Well, Diane, I would say very improbable. But there's two different things to think about here with anyone. It's "can you test positive again" versus "will you develop actually bad symptoms from COVID-19?" A lot of people-- you and I have talked about-- can get some viral content in their nose and then go and test positive. But will they actually go on to develop symptomatic illness? That's going to be a lot less common if you've been fully vaccinated and you have natural immunity like the president does. Now regarding Dr. Jill Biden, it is good news to hear from the White House that she has mild cold symptoms, has tested positive, and is in isolation, is fully vaccinated, is boosted, and is on Paxlovid herself. DIANE MACEDO: What about this new bivalent COVID vaccine in the UK? How much of an impact could that have in trying to fight this virus globally? And do you think we could see a similar vaccine in the US? - Well, with regards to what's happening in the UK, I think this is more of a preemptive step as they have announced, and I quote, to "have a new tool in their safety armory." Now what's different about the UK bivalent vaccine and what was being proposed in the United States is, the UK bivalent vaccine, Diane, is targeting the ancestral strain of SARS-CoV-2 plus Omicron BA.1, whereas our FDA and CDC want to wait for a little bit more of an updated bivalent vaccine that would target ancestral strain plus BA.4, BA.5. And so I do think that this is a step forward in terms of individual risk protection. But as far as what difference this is going to make on a global scale, we still have to go backwards and look at our original vaccination numbers, which are still not optimal. In the United States, we're about 67% fully vaccinated, a little bit over 30% for people who have gotten an additional dose. That is what is going to make a large difference in terms of reducing overall debts is building up that vaccine-- kind of building up the people who are getting the vaccines and reducing hesitancy. - And I want to talk about monkeypox, too. Because we now know of at least seven cases in children here in the US. More kids are heading back to school. I know you have a little one not quite school age yet. But as parents, what do we do? What's the concern here? How do we keep our kids safe? How worried do we need to be? - Oh, the trio of questions you ask me, Diane. You know, as parents, we are paying close attention to the way that any infectious disease can spill over from a vulnerable population into another population. We're seeing this now in the pediatric context. Now parents need to be realistic here and realize that based on all the data we have, including the big study in the New England Journal of Medicine, and realize that monkeypox is really going to be spread from that close skin-to-skin contact with somebody who is contagious, who either is-- who either has that prodromal illness-- a fever, fatigue right before they get the rash-- or has the rash themselves. And so presumably in the kids who have tested positive, they have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox. This is not something that has happened from going into, you know, a crowded supermarket or playing on a playground. This is not COVID-19. But in any case, any parents out there who have a child who is developing these strange symptoms, or has a rash that they don't know what that rash is, or a child who is in contact with someone who has monkeypox should chat with a health care professional about what the next best steps are to do. - And medical experts have raised some particular concerns about college campuses. Because of course, students are returning to college as well. What can you tell us about that? - Well, I think colleges, kind of in the back of their mind, are somewhat prepared for this based on what they have all had to deal with over the past 2 and 1/2 years. But from what we're reading from specific colleges and what their medical centers have put out in terms of statements, the important things for people to say-- again, as we mentioned-- is that, if you are in a high-risk group and you're heading to college this fall, to try and get one of those vaccines. Also, colleges are being very realistic in talking about the fact that in a college setting, there may be a higher predisposition towards that close skin-to-skin contact, going to close parties, et cetera. I'm being diplomatic right now on television. But that's something that college kids need to pay attention to, especially if they're around anyone who has symptoms or has a rash. But again, this is not something that's going to be high risk or having a high chance of catching if you're sitting in a classroom, if you're walking by someone, or having a casual conversation. And as always, it's very important that we balance targeted, good information towards vulnerable groups and awareness and fight stigmatization. Because this virus can absolutely infect anyone. - All right. Dr. Alok Patel, always great to have you. Thank you. - Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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