I was hoping for the best when I felt the tickle. I had timed my second COVID booster to coincide with my bucket-list hiking trip in Italy, and I was up to date on my vaccinations. I was on the trail when it started to get bad.

There were reasons to be worried. As a cancer survivor, I have spent the past two and a half years exercising extreme caution and avoiding crowds even when it meant missing the weddings of my loved ones. I am well aware of the damage a runaway virus can do. I'm a science journalist and I know a lot about long carbon dioxide.

I've been as cautious as possible. We double-checked that the tour company we signed up for had strict mask policies and had vaccine and testing requirements. By the time I got to Lake Maggiore, I had tested positive for something.

My story is not unusual. We are still hurtling toward record numbers and rates of infections nearly 30 months into our global experience with COVID. We don't have containment but we have vaccines. The newest strains are the most evasive.

The average number of cases per day in Italy is 95,000, which is the highest level since the beginning of the year. The emergence of Omicron in late 2021, followed by the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in November, has led to a race to the top between the two. There is no evidence that the process is slowing.

According to the World Health Organization, the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5 are now dominant in the U.S. Surges are likely due to increased transmissibility, immune escape from previous infections or vaccines, and possibly, enhanced infectious capacity by the virus.

In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that triple-vaccinated participants and those with "natural immunity" from prior infections had lower BA.4 and BA.5-neutralizing antibody titers.

The lead author of that study told me that the subsequent variant has shown an increase in immune escape. The titers to BA.5 were three times lower than the original Omicron variant. Barouch told me that the findings help explain why we are seeing large surge by BA.5.

According to a new preprint report from Australia, Eric Topol pointed out that BA.5 appears to be infecting our cells more easily. He said that the immune escape and increased infections were the reason.

It is likely that the strain that took me down was the one that I dodged for so long. As the subvariants move through the U.S., there will be a significant toll on a lot of people. The U.S. is seeing a rise in BA.5-related hospitalizations.

According to our research, vaccine immunity still provides robust protection against severe disease. The vaccines don't give high-level protection against infections by the newest subvariants and that's a pressing concern

The dangers here are real. Because the new subvariants are immune-evasive, they may reach people who might have thought they were done with Covid because they already had it.

The risk of re-infection with BA.5 has increased because previous infections are far away from an aligned immune response. We are not done with new versions of the virus.

The re infections are not just annoying. Ziyad Al-Aly and his team analyzed the health records of 34,000 people with breakthrough COVID infections in the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The risks of mortality, hospitalization, and adverse health outcomes in multiple organs were found to be higher for people who had re-infection.

The director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System said that two infections carry more risk than one and three infections carry more risk than two. It's worth it to try and prevent yourself from catching it again if you got it once or twice. You are trying your luck with infections.

While vaccines are good at preventing acute COVID-19, they are just 15% effective at preventing long COVID, which is defined by the CDC as having symptoms for four weeks or more after a diagnosis. Over this, the spectre of long COVID looms large.

Millions of people who were not sick enough to be hospitalized when they first contracted the virus are now considered a long-term threat to their health.

There are high stakes. More than 50 effects of long COVID have been identified in a systematic review. Some 22 million Americans are already dealing with the effects of the virus months after their initial infections, according to a report.

Even though we don't know the cause of long COVID, viral persistence has been found in multiple organs and tissues of dead patients. In a manuscript under review for publication in Nature, researchers describe the length of time that the virus stays in the body. Both of you and I don't want long confession.

The evolution of COVID-19 has been more easily predicted than confronted and these are some of the less visible consequences of that. There has been a decline in vaccine protection against infections with the Omicron subvariants.

Many breakthrough infections are likely explained by this. A review of 43 studies from 17 countries shows that prior infections do not seem to protect against subsequent infections.

There is an issue of how each variant of the virus affects the immune response of those who are exposed to it. A study conducted by a team at Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London found that a person's future immune response will be shaped by the first SARS-CoV-2 spikeProtein they encounter.

According to Al-Aly, the vaccine was designed to protect against the original virus. He said, "vaccine effectiveness is dropping, especially now with BA.5 where we are seeing people who are fully vaccinated and double boosted have severe disease, get hospitalized and die from the disease."

According to an analysis by the Financial Times, hospitalizations are rising in multiple countries and in the U.S. The vaccines are still working despite an increase in intensive care admissions, according to a World Health Organization official.

Where are we going from here? We need a universal coronaviruses vaccine that protects against both existing and future versions, or a nasal vaccine that increases immunity at the port of entry. According to officials at a recent WHO media briefing, pan-coronaviruses vaccine is the solution to cover evolving variant.

According to Al-Aly, it is important to develop vaccines that cover broad variations in COVID. We are reacting to the virus at the moment. We need to improve our game.

Several of these types of pan-vaccines are in development, but the government's sense of urgentness has been missing. Dr. Robert Seder, the chief of cellular immunology at the National Institutes of Health, is working on a next- generation vaccine as well, as reported by Pfizer. There hasn't been a push like that. These vaccines need to be developed quickly to save lives and money.

The onus is on the public at this time. If possible, avoid infections and re-infections. In crowded outdoor settings and indoors, wear a well-fitting mask and get vaccinations. Doors and windows can be opened to improve air flow. The best way to use HEPA is to use it. These aren't new tactics but they help

I have a beautiful Italian vista outside my window, but it's not safe for me to take it in while I wait out myQuarantine. I was able to avoid Covid's long reach for a long time.

We need to respond forcefully with vaccines that don't try to chase the latest version of a virus that has proven again and again its ability to evolve. It's time for a more complete approach.

The opinions and beliefs of Fortune are not reflected in the commentary pieces.

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