New Strains of COVID-19: What Does This Mean for Vaccination?

With coronavirus variants from places like the United Kingdom and Brazil now in the United States, more vigilant practices are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, new strains of the virus have appeared, which has led to questions of how to best deal with these more dangerous variants.

A commonly discussed tactic to dealing with the emergence of new coronavirus strains from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa in tandem with the slow rate of vaccinations is to delay the second dose of the vaccine. According to NPR, the variant from Brazil is considered to be the most worrying because its makeup “allows the virus to spread more quickly to help it evade the immune system.” The variant from the U.K. is considered to be more lethal that the original strain.

Dr. Anthony Fauci recommends that people continue getting vaccinated, as viruses cannot mutate if they aren’t replicated. Along with immunization, the continued practices of using face masks, handwashing and social distancing are cited as the best ways to prevent the spread of these new virus strains. According to Michael Worobey, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, there is no evidence that suggests the variants are resistant to the vaccine.

“Once we vaccinate everyone, the virus is going to experience a much stronger selective force to come up with new variants that escape immunity to some degree,” said Worobey. “Where there’s a big rollout of vaccines, over the next several months, we’re going to see that mutation process accelerate.”

Worobey also noted that as the coronavirus mutates, the vaccine may need to be updated sometime in the future, though it is not known when that will need to happen.

About the Author

Nikki Johnson-Bolden is an Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.

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