Now that the 19th anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic is over, with the arrival of more and more vaccines, there seems to be a glimmer of light and hope at the end of this tunnel of terror. But there is still another potential threat looming: the different variants of the coronavirus. Mutations and changes in viruses are commonplace, but because the coronavirus has changed the world dramatically, there are now serious concerns about its variants and potential effects.
How many variants do we have? Where in the world can they be found? Do vaccines work against them? Do these variants have more lethality? And finally, what effect will they have on the speed with which we deal with the pandemic?
To answer these and other questions, CNET spoke with experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It should be noted that our understanding of the Covid-19 variants is still increasing, so this article may not be enough to answer all your questions.
What are the Covid-19 variants and where do they occur?
The Covid-19 variants come into play when the original Covid-19 version mutates. This is a normal process among viruses and usually occurs by mistake when the virus is reproducing itself in the body. This is what Dr. Nicolas Pantalio, a family physician at Westmed Medical Group in New York, says. “Most mutations do not modify the virus and do not weaken it, but some mutations can make the virus stronger or more effective.”
We currently have several different variants of Covid-19 that have originated in different parts of the world, but in general, we have three main variants that are circulating all over the world and the expert community is closely monitoring their status:
B.1.1.7 or English variant: This variant was first discovered in the UK and has now spread around the world as well as the United States. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the variant is spreading faster and easier and could take a more dangerous form in the patient’s body than before, but more research is yet to be done to prove this. “Varina B.1.1.7 has a 30 to 75 percent higher chance of transmitting the virus from one person to another than it originally circulated,” says Pantalio. By the beginning of March, he said, at least 170 cases of the variant had been detected in New York.
B.1.351 or African variant: The variant was first discovered in South Africa and then left the United States in late January. Clinical trials have shown that the Strazenka vaccine is less effective against this variant, and this has led to concerns among researchers and health leaders around the world. According to the New York Times, the first studies on Pfizer and Modern vaccines show that they are both less effective than this version of the virus, but in any case they protect people to some extent.
According to another report republished by the New York Times, people who have previously been infected with a different variant of the virus are not immune to the new variant, and this has become a new concern for those who have already fought Covid-19. “This variant is 150 percent more likely to be transmitted, and current vaccines do not provide much protection against it,” says Pantalio. “Concerns about being infected with this variant are growing every day, even if a person has already been infected with another variant of the virus.” Pantalio says at least two cases of the variant were discovered in New York by the beginning of March.
P.1 or Brazilian variant: This variant was first discovered in Brazilian travelers who tested it at an airport in Japan. The main concern with this variant is the possibility that the virus can easily escape the antibodies (either antibodies from the previous infection or antibodies from the vaccine). “The Brazilian variant is the variant about which we have the least information, but the preliminary data show an increase in the rate of virus transmission,” explains Pantalio. The virus has recently been found in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Minnesota, Florida, Oklahoma and Alaska.
Are vaccines effective against variants?
All three of the current US vaccines developed for Covid-19 appear to protect people against new variants to some extent, reducing hospitalization rates as well as mortality. “Pantalio says new versions or upgraded vaccines are currently being developed and tested to better protect people from mutated variants.”
Before you realize that you no longer need to be vaccinated because you have already been infected with Covid-19 and then revived, you should listen to Pantalio: “It is believed that Covid-19 vaccines today are better than antibodies produced “They protect you from these new variants because of a previous infection.”
Given that we still have very little information about variants, it is necessary for people to continue to follow the rules and continue to wear masks and social distance: even if you already have Covid-19 or have been vaccinated. This process should continue until experts confirm that there is no need to continue.
The bottom line is that all current vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and the Food and Drug Administration are completely safe. Although the effectiveness of each vaccine varies from one vaccine to another, they all generally prevent you from getting serious cases of Quid-19 and dying from the infection. As more variants of the virus become available (and current variants are becoming more widespread), it is more important than ever that vaccines be distributed quickly and efficiently.
Are the variants more contagious or dangerous?
Although more research is yet to be done, it seems that all three of the variants mentioned above are more easily spread than the initial version of Covid-19. But Pantalio says we are still not sure if these viruses will appear more deadly. The FDA says that because the prevalence of these variants is higher, we should expect a significant increase in cases, which in turn will lead to more variants and more deaths.
Some experts worry that the variants will be able to neutralize the progress made in the pandemic process in just a few months, so adhering to safety and health protocols is now more important than ever.
“Everyone still has to wear a mask, observe social distance, and be vigilant against all of these variants while maintaining good hygiene,” says Pantalio. “Even if a person has received the full dose of their vaccine, these protocols must be continued to reduce the rate of infection.”
How can we protect ourselves against these variants?
The health and safety measures we have been encouraged to follow since the beginning of the pandemic will protect you against these variants. This means that you should wear a mask in public places as well as with people outside the family circle, keep your physical distance from people you do not live with, test, enter quarantine when you feel sick, and wash your hands regularly. . In addition, getting the vaccine whenever it is available to you is a very important step in protecting yourself and others, as well as ending a pandemic.