Variants of the COVID-19 virus are very much in the news and we are seeing is a slow but steady evolution of the coronavirus. There are now four major variants of the virus that are of concern and in fact, experts refer to them as “variants of concern”. The first recognized variant was the U.K. variant, identified in the southern portion of the United Kingdom. It increased in transmission efficiency and there are some reports that say it may be somewhat more virulent.
Of even greater concern is the South African variant, which contains mutations that confer resistance to certain monoclonal antibodies, like one of the two monoclonal antibodies developed by Regeneron. The Brazilian variant has basically the same set of mutations that are conferring antibody resistance, causing great concern. There is now a fourth type of variant which is less well-studied but has been identified in the state of California.
Moderna and Pfizer are working on taking the genetic sequence of the variant and using it to develop a booster which would still be an mRNA-based vaccine, however, would contain a different RNA. It may be that a booster to the “old” virus is required as well so a multi-valent approach would be used. The good news is the mRNA vaccine platform is able to be updated! Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!