The US is in an 'absolute race against time' with new coronavirus variants, expert says

Posted at 4:13 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 17:27:44-05

(WXYZ) — As more cases of new virus variants emerge, health officials are stressing the need to speed up mass immunization programs here in the US. With one expert saying it’s an 'absolute race against time'.

Vaccinations are what we need to help get the virus under control. And to help us get back to what life was like before the coronavirus dominated the world.

Right now, only 5.6 million Americans have received two vaccine doses. That’s not a lot of people.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has said that these new variants are – and I quote – “a wake-up call”. Because they have the potential to dominate and wreak more havoc here if we’re too slow at getting people vaccinated.

It’s great that our case numbers have been trending down. But that could change in a heartbeat due to the three new variants that are now here in the US.

The first case of the P.1 variant was identified last week in a person who traveled to Minnesota from Brazil. And now, two states have cases of the variant that was first identified in South Africa. And yes, those numbers are low. But we can see how easily the variants can spread.

Just look at B.1.1.7, the variant first found in the United Kingdom. There are now over 300 cases across the US. And the numbers are likely to rise since the UK variant is not only estimated to be 50% more transmissible, but it also might be deadlier.

In fact, experts are very concerned that in the next six to 14 weeks, the UK variant will surge and become the main coronavirus here in the US. And if that happens, our numbers could do a 180 and start rising again.

The new virus variants should not make the approved vaccines ineffective. It’s possible however that the efficacy rate might drop and not be near 95%. But it will likely lessen severe COVID-19 disease which means fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths.

Now again, we know that viruses mutate – they want to elude vaccines - we expect that. So down the road, it’s possible that there will be booster shots to help provide more protection against variants. Just like what Moderna is looking at because blood samples suggested that their vaccine elicited a weaker immune response to the South African variant strain.

But I can’t stress enough how imperative it is that we double down on pandemic precautions. Wear your mask - it’s not a bad idea to wear two – and continue to wash your hands and social distance. This will go a long way in helping to keep the virus variants at bay while people continue to get vaccinated.

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