◾ The UK variant – B.1.1.7The UK variant is now in 26 states (picture 2).
◾ The SA variant – 501Y.V2 or B.1.351The first case of the SA variant was diagnosed today in South Carolina.
◾ The Brazil variant – P.1At least one case has been confirmed in Minnesota.
✅ What does this mean? These variants are more transmissible (contagious). This is my biggest worry about these variants because more cases at one time lead to overwhelmed hospitals. Are the variants more severe or deadly? To date, the CDC has not released any statements saying the variants are more deadly or associated with more severe disease. This, however, could change as monitoring continues. Scientists are watching this and I’ll keep you posted.
✅ What about the vaccines? So far, the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) seem to work against the variants. We need to get people vaccinated quickly though. I know that is frustrating to some of you who would eagerly get a vaccine today if you could. They are coming, friends. We are also expecting the J&J vaccine results this week or early next week. I’ll keep you posted on that, but early results look very promising for this vaccine! (The J&J vaccine is one-dose and does not require super low temps like the other vaccines.)
✅ TAKE HOME MESSAGE: The more people that are infected, the more likely the virus continues to change. This, in turn, increases the chance that a mutation could affect how severe or deadly infections are. Bottom line – we need a circuit breaker in case transmissions. I know many people have just become accustomed to high case rates that are well over what they should be in a pandemic. We have lived with this thing for 10ish months now and many are simply “over it”. Goodness, I get that. But we need to stop transmissions while vaccines continue to be rolled out. Mask up, everyone. Please take this seriously. The variants are here and we know the infections can sky-rocket again based on what we have just seen in the UK.
On a personal note – I know many of you are despondent right now in the waves of pandemic news. This whole thing can feel like the goalposts keep moving. They keep moving because of several factors, including uncoordinated plans in 2020 and the emergence of new variants resulting in widespread, uncontrolled transmission. If I can give you hope, let me give you some hope. There is an end to this pandemic, and we are so close to relief with seeing the effect of vaccines. I just wish we had a circuit-breaker for the gap between. I know many of you are doing your part and have been from the beginning. Don’t lose hope. This is not forever, even though it feels like it is.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiology
Brazil variant in Minnesota press release:https://www.health.state.mn.us/news/pressrel/2021/covid012521.html
SA variant CDC press release: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s0128-sc-detects-COVID-variant.html
Moderna’s press release about the vaccines and UK/SA variants:https://investors.modernatx.com/news-releases/news-release-details/moderna-covid-19-vaccine-retains-neutralizing-activity-against