Several countries across the world have begun rolling out vaccination programs to curtail the spread of the CCP virus. However, scientists and health experts are increasingly worried about new coronavirus mutations that are more contagious and deadlier. At present, five variants of the coronavirus are attracting expert attention:
- UK strain: This is the most widespread variant at present. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that the UK variant will become the dominant strain in the US by March. According to reports, the strain is contagious by up to 74 percent. That means that the virus spreads to more people faster, causing a massive surge in infection rates.
- South African strain: This variant is believed to be even more infectious than the UK one and has entered several nations. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the presence of the South African variant in the UK is concerning since it has “mutated further” than the UK variant. In parts of Africa, the South African strain has become dominant.
- Danish strain: Known as the cluster 5 variant, it was discovered last year in Aug-Sept. This mutation infected farmed mink and then transmitted to humans. It has not infected many people, but the virus will potentially reduce the impact of vaccines.
- Brazilian strain: Like the UK and South African variants, this strain is also believed to spread more easily.
- Nigerian strain: In late December, a new CCP virus variant emerged in Nigeria. Its contagiousness is unknown.
Currently, the main concern of most scientists is the UK variant. It’s the most widespread of these five new strains. It is harder to control compared to previous versions of the virus. It also requires that more people will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that the UK virus variant is what the United States should focus on.
“The variant is a really big deal… To the extent that we can find those and preferentially stop the spread, it won’t be perfect, it will be far from perfect, but anything we can do to delay the spread of this new variant virus will make control easier and will help us in the race to get more people vaccinated before this becomes more common,” he told Statnews.
White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci recently warned that the CCP virus vaccines presently available may not fully protect against the new strains. The South African variant, for example, might cause a dip in the effectiveness of the vaccines. But given that the U.S.-approved Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have an efficacy rate of 95 percent, Fauci believes that there is enough “cushion effect” to deal with a decline in vaccine effectiveness.
Fauci said that since vaccine effectiveness will decline, it is important to inoculate as many people as possible.
“We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle… There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have,” he said in a White House press briefing.