Feature Article: The Emergence of Covid-19 Variants and What We Need to Know

by | Jan 3, 2022 | Featured Article | 0 comments

Covid-19 continues to evolve; therefore, we must continue pushing for vaccinations and studying these emerging variants.

Covid-19, just like other viruses, will continue to evolve as changes in the genetic code occur during the replication of the genome. The only way to end this genetic mutation is to find a cure for the virus to stop it from existing and spreading. The virus will always look for a healthy host for its descendants to survive. So unless every person in the world is vaccinated, the emergence of new Covid-19 strains is always possible. This poses a danger as Covid-19 can evolve into new variants that can spread faster, inflict more damage, and have a more robust defense against existing vaccines.

Despite the increasing number of vaccinated people worldwide, Covid-19 spreads and mutates into new variants.

To properly monitor all Covid variants, the SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG) came up with four classification schemes. They are based on how fast the variant spreads, how severe the symptoms are, how vaccines perform against the variant, and how it responds to treatments. These are Variants Being Monitored (VBM, Variants of Interest (VOI), Variants of Concern (VOC), and Variants of High Consequence. Although there are about a dozen variants already (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Lambda, Mu, etc.), only two are Variants of Concern– Delta and the recently discovered Omicron Variant.

The United States is currently experiencing an explosion in the number of Omicron cases being reported.  Recently they recorded more than 300,000 new cases in a single day.  Many people are fully vaccinated and their symptoms are far milder than those who contract the illness and are unvaccinated.

Delta Variant

First identified in India, the Delta Variant or B.1.617.2 spreads faster than other variants in the VOI list and may cause severe cases compared to other variants. All FDA-approved vaccines have proven to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. However, there is evidence that fully vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others.

Omicron Variant

Reported only last month as a new variant of concern, Omicron was first detected in Botswana and South Africa. Omicron can spread faster than any other variant, including the Delta variant. The increased transmissibility increased disease severity, and significantly decreased neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination make the Omicron variant more dangerous than any Covid strains.

Presently, no variant of high consequence (COVC) is listed in the classification among the variants reported.

All vaccines approved and recommended for use in the United States are effective against Covid-19 and its predominant variants such as the Delta and Omicron. However, scientists strictly monitor all circulating variants and how they can develop more effective therapeutics for the virus.

We must continue to push for vaccinations, especially for health workers and caregivers, to contain the spread of these emerging new Covid strains and ultimately end this pandemic.

The only way to protect ourselves from Covid-19 and its emerging variants is to get vaccinated. It is also one way to prevent more variants from existing. We must continue to implement social distancing, wearing of face masks, and other health protocols as we are still in the pandemic.

We learn from Eleanor Gaccetta and her book One Caregiver’s Journey the essential role caregivers play in caring for the sick and elderly. During the pandemic, their role extended to helping medical front-liners as the sick and the elderly are easy targets of the Covid-19 and its variants. Therefore it is only fitting that they continue to be among the top priority for vaccines and booster shots along with doctors, nurses, and other front liners.

Overall, if we want to return to normalcy next year and move on with our lives, we must do our part to prevent the virus from further spreading. The vaccine is still our best shot in containing the Covid-19 apart from social distancing and other protocols. So let us encourage our friends and families wherever they may be on the planet to get vaccinated.


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