By Hailey Ruane
The well-known Covid-19, or SARS-CoV-2, has been running rampant across the globe since 2019 with over 100 million cases since the start of the pandemic. Even with those numbers, there is still more that the coronavirus has in store.
There have been previous strains of coronavirus in the past, with SARS and MERS being the most well known. More recently, three new strains of coronavirus have emerged.
The most notable new strain of coronavirus is the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the U.K. as early as Sept. 2020. Since then, the strain has been found in over 80 different countries, with the U.S. being one of them. According to CNN, 33 states have reported cases of the strain, with Florida and California reporting the highest numbers of cases. The first U.S. case that was reported occurred on Dec. 29, 2020, although there is a chance that it has been in the U.S. since November 2020
Although there is currently not a high number of cases for the variant at the moment, things could change quickly. CNN reported that “Our study shows that the U.S. is on a similar trajectory as other countries where B.1.1.7 rapidly became the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant, requiring immediate and decisive action to minimize Covid-19 morbidity and mortality.”
There is a higher risk for the new strain to become most severe due to how easily it spreads. The transmissibility rate is greater than strains related to the original Covid-19. CNN states that the new strain is 35% to 45% more contagious than other strains of the virus.
Another difference that makes the new strain harder to contain within countries that have cases of the variant is that the people reported to have been infected with the B.1.1.7 strain had not traveled internationally recently. This means that although it was first reported in the U.K, the mutation of the virus occurs on its own through each transmission.
Even with the vaccines being released, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that, “If the variants and the mutations come and start becoming dominant, then that’s going to obviate some of the effects of the vaccine.”
The CDC found that “Early reports found no evidence to suggest that the variant has any impact on the severity of disease.” The variant has not had any drastic differences when it comes to common symptoms of Covid-19, such as loss of taste and smell, fever or chills.
There are two other variants that are known and which have had a handful of cases worldwide, the B.1.351 and the P.1 variant. The B.1.351variant, which reportedly emerged in South Africa, was reported in 5 cases, while the P.1 variant has had 2 cases reportedly stemming from Brazil.
According to the CDC, “These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of Covid-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.”
In each of the variants, there have only been a small number of cases in comparison to the over 100 million cases of Covid-19, but the rate of transmission is what makes these variants especially concerning. There is a chance that the B.1.1.7 variant could surpass the original strains of Covid-19.
When looking at the ways the world has been handling Covid-19, the vaccines have been a prominent topic. Currently, there are two primary vaccines that have been approved and are being recommended by the CDC.
One option is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and the other is the Moderna vaccine. Both have the same effect on the virus and are similar overall. According to CNN, both vaccines include two separate shots. The Pfizer vaccine has a 21-day gap between the two shots, while the Moderna vaccine has a 28-day gap (one month).
The CDC states that both of the vaccines will not provide automatic immunity right after the first shot, but after the second shot, the body will have had the time and resources to build an immunity against the virus. Even with the vaccine in your system, people can still carry and transmit the virus to others, even though they will not get sick.
As for who should be vaccinated, everyone over the age of 18, even if they have had the virus already, is recommended to receive the vaccine. As mentioned previously by the CDC, it is crucial for everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine in order to lessen the number of cases and deaths.
According to Bloomberg, 138 million doses have been administered in 73 countries. The distribution of the vaccines has already hit many different groups, but there are still plenty of people who are waiting to receive the vaccine.