SARS-CoV-2, like other RNA viruses, constantly changes through mutation, with new variants occurring over time. Generally, when new variants become more common, they do so because of some selective advantage to the virus. Among the numerous SARS-CoV-2 variants that have been detected, only a very small proportion are of public health concern because they are more transmissible, cause more severe illness, or can elude the immune response that develops following infection and possibly from vaccination. In recent months, 3 specific viral lineages reflecting variants of concern have emerged and merit close monitoring: B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1.
Clinical trials have shown that the vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are highly effective against COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and death. As of February 11, 2021, more than 46 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The CDC and NIH are working with state and local health departments to investigate “breakthrough” infections following vaccination, identified through a variety of mechanisms including case-based surveillance. Investigations of vaccine effectiveness, individual breakthrough infections, and the ability of post-vaccination serum to neutralize novel variant viruses are important components of monitoring the effectiveness of vaccination in controlling COVID-19 in an arena of evolving viral variants.
Get vaccinated, complete the series if it requires more than one injection, stay tuned to updates as there may be a third “booster” vaccine in the future. Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!