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COVID-19 vaccines and variants: What experts say is the impact

"The variants are of concern"
Posted at 6:55 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 18:55:32-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- COVID-19 variants and vaccines. In South Africa, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is on hold after studies found it provides “minimal protection” against the more contagious variant found in that country, according to CNN.

Thomas Duszynski, MPH, PhD, Director of Epidemiology Education at IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, believes there are currently more than 11 strains of the virus globally. While the good news is here in Indiana, cases are decreasing, the variants cause concern.

“Even though numbers are dropping currently with these new strains circulating the population, it wouldn’t take much to reignite that and get them going in the wrong direction,” Duszynski said.

On Monday, the Indiana State Department of Health said there are nine diagnosed cases of the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus in the state. “Don’t press the panic button, but also don’t let your guard down,” Duszynski said.

It is not a surprise, experts say, that the COVID-19 virus mutated. At the moment, though, it is not known the impact any one of them may have on the effectiveness on the vaccines. However, Duszynski said research is ongoing with individuals who are already vaccinated.

“The vaccine manufactures along with regulatory agencies monitor that to see is there a problem with the vaccine not being effective against the current strain and as of right now we haven’t seen that,” Duszynski said.

A wait and watch approach, for now, according to Duszynski. While the news of COVID-19 variants should not cause alarm, it should be a reminder to keep up good health practices.

“The more virus spreads, the more people get sick, the more opportunities the virus has to evolve in this way, or that can evade the vaccines,” Dr. Amy Beth Kressel with Eskenazi Health said. She is the Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship.

Both experts urge Hoosiers not to wait on getting vaccinated. “At this point, it looks like the vaccines will offer some protection against these variants, it may not be the same degree, it probably won’t be the same degree, but there will be some protection,” Dr. Kressel said.