Vaccines May Offer Good Protection Against Certain COVID Variants, Not Others

DULUTH, Minn. — The COVID-19 vaccines were all designed to protect people against the virus, but they may not be as effective against some of the variants spreading throughout the world right now.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the vaccines may offer less protection against certain variants such as B.1.351, the variant first discovered in South Africa, but some protection against others such as B.1.1.7, the mutation first found in the UK.

An infectious disease physician at Essentia Health explained that a virus can easily mutate as it jumps from person to person, and COVID-19 now has several variants circulating the world.

While some pharmaceutical companies work on booster shots to cover them, Dr. Rajesh Prabhu said there’s a strong probability that the vaccines might still give you protection from at least serious hospitalization or death if you’re sick with a certain COVID variant.

“The main thing with all these vaccines is it actually prevents severe COVID even in the variants, even the South African variant, even the Brazil variant,” Dr. Prabhu said. “It’s not the same robust response as the original virus, but still an effect.”

As Minnesota loosens restrictions and places like bars and restaurants become more crowded again, some people who have been vaccinated may be letting their guards down, thinking they are protected against all mutations of COVID. Dr. Prabhu said it’s still important to take all the same precautions to prevent serious illness.

“COVID is unpredictable, so your age is not necessarily a guarantee that you won’t have a bad case,” Dr. Prabhu emphasized. “People of all ages should take measures to prevent getting COVID or transmitting it to other people. So even if you have a case and yours is mild, you can potentially transmit it to someone else that isn’t as lucky.”

Both Essentia Health and St. Luke’s require their employees to get the flu shot every year, but are not requiring them to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Both clinics explained that it is because the COVID-19 vaccines only have FDA emergency use authorization, but not final FDA approval yet.



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