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COVID-19 Vaccine Updates
With input from Dr Monica Vasudev
1546: Variants may negate the progress made so far
- The pandemic curve may be bending in the U.S.
- COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have shown a steep fall.
- However, concerning variants are still spreading, that carry mutations which make the virus more contagious and sometimes more fatal.
- Variants first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil are becoming dominant, and new U.S. variants continue to surface, thus posing a threat to postponing the end of the pandemic.
- While most vaccines seem to be effective against the variants, public health officials express concern that future iterations of the virus may show more resistance, and people may be required to regularly take booster shots or newer vaccines.
- The highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant is already risingin the United States. Limited genetic testing has shown over 12,500 cases, with several of them from Florida and Michigan. As of March 13, the variant was responsible for nearly 27% of new cases in the country, rising from 1% in early February.
- Sebastian Funk, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stated that we must consider B.1.1.7 and other variants as separate epidemics.
- Other variants that have been detected in South Africa and Brazil, and some other versions first identified in the United States, have been spreading comparatively slowly. But they are a cause of concern too, as they carry a mutation that decreases vaccine efficacy. An outbreak of P.1, the variant that hit Brazil hard, led to a shutdown of the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia.
- The variants identified in Britain, South Africa, Brazil and California are all variants of concern.
- B.1.1.7 is about 60% more contagiousand 67% more deadlycompared to the original version of the virus, suggest recent estimates.
Dr KK Aggarwal
President CMAAO, HCFI and Past National President IMA