Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 together now make up 47% of the COVID-19 variants circulating in Hawaii, according to the state Health Department’s latest variant report.
The department’s State Laboratories Division found via genome sequencing that subvariant BA.4 represented 8%, while BA.5 represented 39% of test specimens collected in the two-week period ending July 2.
Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1, meanwhile, made up 42% of variants circulating in the state, down from 58% two weeks prior. BA.2 now only makes up 11% of variants circulating in the state.
While all of the omicron subvariants are considered variants of concern, both BA.4 and BA.5 have an increased ability to evade antibodies elicited by vaccination or prior infection compared to BA.2.
BA.5, however, appears to have a significant growth advantage over BA.4 despite sharing identical mutations in the spike protein, the report said.
Epidemiologists are most concerned about BA.5, which has swiftly become the dominant lineage nationally, and now makes up about 78% of new COVID cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The State Laboratories Division has detected 67 cases of BA.4 and its sublineages, and more than 250 cases of BA.5 and its sublineages in the state in samples collected between May and July.
All four major counties of Hawaii — Kauai, Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii — have both BA.4 and BA.5 present in their communities.