HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The speed at which the COVID-19 virus is mutating has healthcare experts around the world and here in Connecticut taking note. There are concerns because the longer the virus stays around, the more it can change in form.
While current vaccines appear to be effective on most strains, (such as B117), the variant B1351 detected in December in other countries may present a problem.
“It’s a South African variant. It says it has the potential, and they’re still doing studies on this but, this variant might not be responding to antibodies as much as we’d expect,” says Keith Grant, APRN, Senior System Director of Infection Prevention with Hartford Healthcare.
He goes on to say, “Within some studies, it seems this specific variance isn’t responding well to the vaccine. Again we don’t have enough to conclude on this and we’re still studying it.”
Antibodies are how vaccines work. Grant explains how time and mutations work against science.
“At a rate of three different mutations per week, the longer it will stay around the more we have the potential for these vaccines to not be effective against these variances.”
As for other mutations being tracked, the spreadability is the concern.
“Some studies are looking at 50-70 percent more contagious.”
Grant says the COVID-19 virus is one of the smartest that scientists and doctors have ever dealt with.
He brings up another issue, which again is just a concern right now: would the virus mutate so that it cannot be detected in testing?
“The other part of mutation which often happens with viruses is them getting the astute ability to be detected by the test methodologies that we do have so that’s another concern as well.”
Grant says safety measures in place such as distancing, wearing masks, and not gathering socially are key to work on getting ahead of this second wave.