By Emily Drooby
During Spring Break in Florida, there were people partying in the streets. Traveling has increased at airports.
“These people that are not following the instructions are hurting you,” said Internal Medicine and Viral Specialist Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. “If they get infected, they are going to create variants that are going to spread.”
Variants are already showing up across the country. Variants like P1, the highly contagious variant first found in Brazil, is now in Brooklyn.
That’s just one of several variants the Centers for Disease Control has labeled concerning along with B.1.427 and B.1.429 – which were first found in California. Variant B.1.351 is known as the South Africa variant and B.1.1.7, which was first spotted in the U.K., is now spreading rapidly all over.
These variants have been popping up across the U.S. as the country scrambles to vaccinate as many people as possible.
“This is a moving target,” said Dr. Robert Tiballi, infectious disease specialist with The Catholic Medical Association. “The genes will keep on reasserting and mutating and so the vaccines will have varying degrees of effectiveness against the variants.”
More than 40 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – that’s about 13 percent of the population. As far as success when it comes to the vaccine fighting the variant – it depends.
“If you’ve had a MessangerRN vaccine, Pfizer, Moderna, its effective against the British variant, but against the South African variant, and against the California variant, and against the Brazillian variant, not so much,” explained, Dr. Tiballi.
He says, so far, it looks like when it comes to the variants, the mRNA vaccines maintain a high degree of effectiveness. The non- mRNA vaccines, like Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, have a substantial decrease in protection when it comes to the variants.
However, he still strongly advocates for the shot.
“We do want to recommend strongly that people get vaccinated and not let this news about variants paralyze you about getting a vaccination,” said Dr. Tiballi. “It’s in your best interest.”
He explained that it’s a good way to fight against future variants.
“If we could get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible, we would see the reservoir of circulating infection drop dramatically,” Dr. Tiballi said, “and that would conversely drop the number of variants we would be seeing emerge in our country.”
Testing is still being done to determine the exact ways different variants affect different vaccines.
Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have all announced they’re working on additional modifications for future vaccines to better cover the emerging variants. In the future, booster shots could address these prevalent variants.