UK Variant Now The Most Common In United States

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The CDC says the UK variant of COVID-19 is now the most common strain of the virus in the United States. This has several asking questions about its rate of infection and severity along with how effective our vaccines are. Memorial Health Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker says locally we do not have the ability to pick up on specific sequencing of the virus, but state data shows there are four types of COVID-19 circulating in the peach state. While all cause concern, the most common variant is the UK strain. “I think everyone should look at these variants as the threat that we know is there,” Dr. Thacker said. As vaccine efforts continue, the concern about COVID-19 variants is growing as the CDC announced the UK variant also known as B1.1.7 is most commonly circulating strain in the U.S. Dr. Thacker says in the last month, we’ve learned more about it. “While initially we were hoping that the UK variant would not pose any enhanced risk to us we’re finding that it does indeed spread from person-to-person a little bit easier so it’s easier for infection to spread and there’s some suggestion that those that are infected can have more severe symptoms and outcomes because of that and then the same thing may hold true for the Brazil variant as well as the South African variant,” Dr. Thacker said. As these variants become more common not only in the US, but Georgia too, some wonder how our vaccine protects against them. “The answer there is going to be variant dependent and vaccine dependent so each one of these vaccines sort of instructed your body on how to make a protective antibody in a slightly different way, but the outcome was still the same and I’d remind everyone that the thing that we all want for ourselves is to not get sick and end up in the hospital and not die from this virus and so thankfully all of the vaccines that are on the market currently do that very, very well even with these variants,” Dr. Thacker said. Dr. Thacker says when you hear about reduced effectiveness of the vaccines against variants it is important to keep in mind that right now the vaccine is how we stop the further mutation of the virus. “The way we stop talking about these variants is we get enough people in our community vaccinated so that we have herd immunity which is around 75% of our community because it’s that spread from person-to-person that creates that risk of creating a new variant that is more harmful to us so when we break that chain of person to person spread by being vaccinated and even if it’s slightly less effective we’ll help break that chain, we don’t have as many variants that we have to worry about,” Dr. Thacker said. Dr. Thacker says in addition to the vaccine, these variants bring home the point we need to continue up with public health guidance or our return to “normal” could be altered. He also says there are variant targeted boosters actively being studied and expects those to be a part of our strategy against COVID moving forward.

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