New does not always mean better. Just like how the Paragard lawsuits, which consist of legal claims against a faulty medical device, are still in its early stages in helping women and their families make the pharmaceutical company accountable for its sins, the same can also be said with the world’s current situation, as we are faced with new challenges in the form of a new virus strain.

Just as vaccines give hope and offer a way out of this pandemic, UK officials reported a new variant or strain of the coronavirus this weekend that is circulating in England. As a result, tighter restrictions have been placed in the country as Christmas is nearly approaching.

With the rapid spread of the new variant in London and surrounding areas which brought fear across the globe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “When the virus changes its method attack, we must change our method of defense.”

What it Means for America

Vaccine syringes with the US flag in the background

The new strain of COVID has not been detected in the U.S. yet, but it is slowly becoming a hot topic as vaccines are being rolled out in the country.

Just a week ago, American health workers were on the lineup of the historic first roll out of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. And this week, Moderna’s vaccine received an emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

These vaccines can be the key to ending the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, which has taken the lives of around 317,000 Americans. But now that the virus is mutating, here are some of the things we should be aware of.

Why is this Strain Attracting Attention?

Illustration of a virus and its strain

The World Health Organization stated that the variant was detected in Southeastern England last September and had also been identified in as far as Australia.

UTHealth Public School in Houston’s infectious disease epidemiologist Catherine Troisi noted that is it normal for one to two variants of the original virus to pop up at least once a month, but this variant has a staggering 17 mutations.  

“We’ve never seen so many mutations happen so fast,” Troisi said.

Another cause for concern according to Troisi is how 8 out of the 17 mutations seemingly affect the “spike protein” originally found on the virus, which further increases its ability to infect cells. 

Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases Baylor College of Medicine even said, “Some of the mutations might make it easier for the virus to enter the body.”

UK officials have talked about the new strain in the same way.

They were noted to say that it is indeed more infectious than the original, and in a statement by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, he said the infection was ‘out of control’ in Southern England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson seconded this by describing the new strain as 70% more contagious than the original one. With this, he ordered stricter rules and now, around 16 million people are instructed to stay at their homes in London and Southeast England ahead of the holidays. 

Kulkarni said that the recent rise in figures of COVID-19 cases in the UK might suggest that the virus is more transmissible, but US officials are not ruling out the possibility that it might have rooted from increased human interaction.

Will the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Work Against the New Strain?

Doctor holding a syringe and a vaccine vial

Experts say that there is no evidence suggesting that the vaccines would not protect people from the strain detected in the U.K., however, the mutation is still in need of close observation to support this claim.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, sent out a word to Americans not to let the news of a new strain make them lose their confidence in the ongoing vaccinations. 

“There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus as well,” Murthy said in a statement on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The current knowledge and information that we have so far of the variant is still part of an early data and is bound to change as more studies are being conducted on the new coronavirus strain.

Hopefully, the ongoing roll out of vaccines will yield good results and give us relief on the remaining days of 2020. After all, we’ve already had our fair share of things to worry about the entire year.  



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