There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about the potential fatality of the new COVID-19 variants currently. Plenty of misleading information and scaremongering has led to the belief that these variants are indeed much more lethal or more transmissible than the original virus. There were some reports earlier this year, for instance, that the UK variant may be 30%-40% more deadly than the old one.
So what is the truth?
Several studies are currently attempting to determine the lethality of the new variants. At this stage, the conclusions are still unclear. The fears regarding the deadliness of the new strains might stem from the high infection rates in the regions where those strains were discovered. According to experts, that could be because the variants are more transmissible and not because the strains themselves are causing more deaths.
The new variants “spread more easily and quickly than other variants — which may lead to more cases of COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The truth is that we don’t have sufficient data at the moment to determine whether any of the new COVID-19 variants are any more deadly than the original one.
Myth 2. The current vaccines don’t work against the COVID-19 variants
Now that we know that the new COVID-19 variants are here to stay, the next big question is, whether the newly developed vaccine will be effective against them. There are growing apprehensions that since the COVID-19 vaccines were designed with the original virus in mind, they won’t work against the new strains.
Thankfully, there’s some good news in this regard. Early investigations suggest that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as Johnson & Johnson's candidate vaccine (not yet authorized for use), appear to provide some degree of protection against some of the new variants. More new vaccines that are being developed at present are also expected to provide good cover against these new strains. According to the CDC, most vaccines right now will be able to protect against all variants of COVID-19.
However, Moderna and Pfizer have both said that their vaccines are less effective against the South African strain. That doesn’t mean that the vaccines won’t work at all against the variant though. All vaccines trigger a considerable amount of antibodies after both doses and that should offer us a significant level of immunity against all the variants.
Furthermore, health experts are confident that they will be able to quickly adapt to the current variants and any new ones that might emerge later. If needed, the current vaccines can be redesigned or tweaked to be a better match against the strains in a matter of weeks.
So, your best shot to help stop the spread of any new variants of the coronavirus is by getting immunized with any one of the authorized vaccines as soon as you are eligible.
Myth 3. Health experts weren’t prepared for the new COVID-19 variants
Have the scientists been caught completely off guard with the emergence of new COVID-19 variants? That’s what the general perception is since these strains have apparently appeared out of the blue. However, that’s not the complete truth.
Ever since the pandemic began scientists and health officials were prepared for such a scenario. All viruses mutate as they make duplicates of themselves so that they can survive and spread. Hence, the appearance of these variants isn’t unexpected and it won’t be surprising if more strains emerge in the future.
The CDC explains: “Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.”
Having said that, it has also come to light that some of these variants, like the South African one, were around before for at least a few weeks before being detected. As a result, health officials would have evaluated exactly how some of the strains evaded them and would take the necessary measures to ensure any future ones are detected without much delay.
Myth 4. Variants like these will now become unstoppable
The new COVID-19 variants have definitely spread at a rapid speed. The UK variant, particularly, is likely to become the predominant strain in many places. There are also chances that you would hear about new variants emerging in the weeks to come. But, there’s no reason to panic or to believe that we're all doomed.
Much like the coronavirus, its variants too will be brought under control eventually. We just have to continue following the protective measures like mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing that have helped us prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There’s no reason to believe as of now that those safety measures won't work against any of the new variants. Leading health experts also say that now might be a good time to double mask which can create an extra layer of protection against the new variants. Read our article on the Updated COVID-19 Mask Recommendations for better clarity on the subject.
Lastly, the vaccines will certainly be a potent tool in thwarting the spread of any new strain of the coronavirus. With mass vaccination drives currently underway almost everywhere in the world, it’s more than likely that a significant number of the general public would have been vaccinated by this summer. That should certainly limit the potential impact of these variants.
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