Recent Approvals in Vaccination Against SARS-CoV-2 and the Omicron Subvariants - Episode 1

Overview of SARS-CoV-2 Virus and Subvariants

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Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, discusses the difference between the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and subvariant strains.

Rodney Rohde, SV, SM, MB (ASCP), FACSc: Hello, and welcome to this Peer Exchange titled “Recent Approvals in Vaccination Against SARS-CoV-2 and the Omicron Subvariants”. My name is Dr Rodney E. Rohde. I’m a regents professor, a research dean, and the chair of the clinical laboratory science program at Texas State University in the College of Health Professions in San Marcos, Texas. It’s my honor to join you guys. Joining me are my colleagues, and I’ll let each of them introduce themselves.

Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD: Hi, everyone. My name is Dr Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, but I go by Dr JAM or JAM. I’m an assistant professor at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.

Madeline King, PharmD, BCIDP: Hi, my name is Dr Madeline King. I’m an infectious disease clinical pharmacist, and I practice as an outpatient infectious disease pharmacist at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.

Wendy Wright, DNP, ANP-BC, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, FNAP: Hi, everyone. I’m Dr Wendy Wright, an adult and family nurse practitioner, and the owner of 2 nurse practitioner owned and operated primary care clinics in New Hampshire. It’s truly my pleasure to be with all of you.

Rodney Rohde, SV, SM, MB (ASCP), FACSc: It’s great to meet everyone and hear your backgrounds. Our discussion will be focused on providing an overview of some of the recently approved SARS-CoV-2 booster shots, highlighting some of the recommendations and how to discuss these vaccination options with patients. Welcome, everyone. Let’s get started.

In our first segment we’ll talk about a general overview around SARS-CoV-2 [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2] and the variants involved in that outbreak and pandemic. Dr JAM, I’ll start with you. Would you like to discuss the difference between the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, which was discovered about 2½ years ago, and the subsequent subvariants that have been percolating through society since that time?

Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD: Thank you for that question, Rodney. It’s one I get often. When we think about the differences between the original COVID-19 strain, or what we in the community call the OG strain, and then compare that with the subvariants that we see, it’s just a matter of genetic mutations that multiply and then cause these subvariants to be prevalent.

Then I come into this place of asking, how are these subvariants identified? How is it that we named them? And so on and so forth. This was a learning moment for me. We use the Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages, or the PANGOLIN nomenclature. That’s how we end up with B.1,B.5, and so on. Then the World Health Organization designates specific names to the variant. At this point, we’re 15 letters into the Greek alphabet at Omicron. They started with Alpha. Those are the differences we see in terms of our original COVID-19 strain and the subvariants that we’re seeing.

Rodney Rohde, SV, SM, MB (ASCP), FACSc: Thanks for that explanation. As a virologist, I’m often answering those questions as well. As many of you know, a lot of these viruses sometimes get named from their origin. We’ve tried to stop doing that so that we can quit placing a geographic location or some other nomenclature that might be looked upon as a stigma. That’s the reasoning behind some of that. Thank you, Dr JAM, for that information.

Transcript Edited for Clarity