The net result on the three remains positive. In laboratory tests, the vaccines are just as effective against the variant identified in the UK as against the original strain of the virus. And there is only a modest drop in their effectiveness compared to two others.
“These variants came about because we kept giving the virus a better chance to spread,” said David D. Ho, whose Columbia University lab is leading research on the P. 1 variant discovered for the virus. first time in Brazil. “The sooner we vaccinate everyone, the faster we will contain the spread of the virus and reduce the chances of new variants appearing.”
But the general picture hides problems in some places. One or more of the variants – which also cause more severe illness than the original version of the virus – run across the Northeast and Midwest. This has prompted officials in some communities to request more vaccines than they would receive under the government’s population-based formula. Northwest officials are monitoring a major P. 1 variant outbreak in British Columbia.
“We need more vaccines here in Cape Town now,” said Bruce G. Murphy, director of health for the city of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, which has 82 active cases among its population of just more than 23,000 inhabitants.
Mass vaccination centers in the Boston area are doing little to help Yarmouth residents, especially the elderly who cannot travel, Murphy said.
“If we see 13 [cases], that might just be the tip of the iceberg, ”he said.
Michigan has also requested more vaccines to control an astonishing increase in which its average daily load of coronavirus cases rose from 1,503 on March 7 to 7,020 on Wednesday, according to CDC data analyzed by the Washington Post.
Asked whether the administration would ever change its strategy, Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the White House Coronavirus Response Team, said on Wednesday that the government was already able to move the supplying vaccines from other parts of a state to more severely affected areas.
“We are getting the amount of vaccine that we think the population needs because it’s fundamental,” Slavitt said. “And then we work on very tactical areas. . . how to maximize this vaccine distribution in order to get what we want: efficiency, health equity and the other goals we have. “
In addition to these three variants, the CDC considers two “variants of concern” in California and is monitoring them closely. He is also monitoring a variant found in New York.
With most of the rest of the world falling far behind when it comes to vaccination, the virus will continue to spread and mutate, with each copy having the potential to trigger a variation that current vaccines cannot control. The probabilities remain low, experts believe, but they are not zero.
“I’m afraid there is a terrible variant that will come out and bring us back to square one,” Ho said.
But experts said vaccines could be scaled up and new vaccines could be developed to treat any variants that emerge.
As of April 6, there were 16,275 cases of B.1.1.7, 386 of B. 1,351 first discovered in South Africa, and 356 of P. 1 in the United States. Experts believe the actual numbers are much larger, but with the US efforts to sequence the genomes of the virus overdue, it’s unclear just how widespread the variants actually are.
“The landscape is this great UK boom, the disturbing rise in P. 1 and other strains as well,” said Daniel Jones, vice president of the division of molecular pathology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center . In a few weeks, he said, there will be enough infections in the United States to collect better data on people’s immune responses, rather than through lab tests.
Laboratory tests usually involve looking at one mutation at a time; circulating variants can have a lot of them, said Stephen Kissler, an immunology expert at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
And “the human immune system is much more complex than what we can mimic in a petri dish, so we can only get partial information,” he said.
Found in more than 24 countries and 25 US states, P. 1 is believed to be up to 2.2 times more contagious and 61% more infectious than the original form of the virus. In other words, it produces a higher viral load, which probably makes people sicker.
Some experts have questioned whether competing variants have slowed its spread. Northern California, for example, is dominated by B.1.427 / B.1.429 cases, while southern California has a higher share of B.1.1.7.
“We are seeing different variants in different parts of the country competing for control of populations,” said Benjamin Pinsky, medical director of the Stanford Clinical Virology Lab.
So far, B.1.1.7 seems to be dominant. According to the latest data from Helix, a company that works with the CDC to track variants, B.1.1.7 comprises about 50 percent of all sequenced cases in the United States.
“My feeling is that if you went into a boxing ring with all the variants, the UK variant is going to win in terms of communicability,” said Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California at San. Francisco.
The immune response to type P. 1 “is going to be better than the South African variant but probably not as good as the British variant,” Ho said.
The variants discovered in California seem potentially more benign than the others. Several states with outbreaks of B.1.1.7 have reported unusual outbreaks among school-aged children that spread through their communities, but this has not been the case for the California variants.
“We have reduced hospitalizations to a very low level” in areas where B.1.427 / B.1.429 is becoming dominant, Chin-Hong said. “You would expect to see more cases among children and spring breakers, but we haven’t seen that. This suggests that he is not marking his territories by making young people sicker. “
In Canada, public health officials have faced the largest increase in P. 1 variant outside of Brazil. There were more than 787 cases in British Columbia on Tuesday and a small but growing number in the adjacent province of Alberta. It made young skiers at Whistler Blackcomb resort and workers at an energy company sick. Twenty-one players and four staff members of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team have been infected with a variant of the virus, although the team has not determined which one.
Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Alberta, tweeted on Monday that his team was investigating a P. 1 outbreak linked to “a large employer” that began with a traveler returning from a trip out of the province. She said there had been a separate workplace outbreak in another part of the state.
Hinshaw said the province had identified 887 new cases in the previous 24 hours and that 39 percent of active cases are now variants.
In Connecticut, the variant first discovered in the UK has helped give 20 to 29 year olds the highest case rate of any age group in the state. Whether this reflects the properties of the variant, relaxed precautions in young people or vaccinations that protect the elderly – or a combination of all three – is unclear.
Another variant, originally detected in India, made headlines in California this week as a “double mutant” because it contains characteristics of the variants first discovered in California and Brazil / South Africa.
Described by Indian researchers on March 24, it was first identified in the United States on March 25 in a patient in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Pinsky said: “It is too early to say how this variant will work. We know how these individual mutations modify the virus, but we haven’t been able to see how they behave in combination. “
Brazil, now totally in the grip of the P 1 variant, shows how quickly it can take control when not taken seriously. In the Amazon rainforest, he quickly devastated the city that spawned him, then stormed the south. It was soon spread across the country – and its assault on Brazil, now amid nationwide medical failure, has since been ruthless.
Nearly 67,000 Brazilians died from covid-19 – the disease caused by the virus – in March, more than double another month during the pandemic. The highest death toll – 4,195 – was recorded on Tuesday. Scientists have not proven that the variant is more lethal. But doctors and health officials in Brazil say it signaled a darker and deadlier phase of the pandemic.
The vaccination rate in Brazil is far behind that of the United States.
Patients arrive much sicker – and much younger.
“The nationwide P. 1 variant is clearly contributing to the increase,” Sylvain Aldighieri, a senior official with the Pan American Health Organization, said last week. “We are also receiving signals and reports in different states that young adults are being hospitalized in greater numbers.”