Covid variants: What are they and will vaccines work? | Sunday Observer

Covid variants: What are they and will vaccines work?

21 February, 2021

New variants of coronavirus are emerging that are more infectious than the one that started the pandemic.

One of these, first found in Kent, could become the world’s dominant strain, the head of the UK’s genetic surveillance programme has predicted.

There are concerns vaccines may not work quite so well against some variants.

What are these new variants?

There are many thousands of different versions, or variants, of Covid circulating.

Experts’ concerns focus on a few:

• A UK or Kent variant (also known as B.1.1.7) now dominant in much of Britain, which has spread to more than 50 countries and appears to be mutating yet again. The UK is stepping up testing to find and stop cases spreading

• A South Africa variant (B.1.351) found in at least 20 other countries, including the UK

• A variant from Brazil (P1)

It’s not unexpected that new variants have developed - all viruses mutate as they make copies of themselves to spread and thrive.

Most of these differences are inconsequential. A few can even be harmful to the virus’s survival. But some can make it more infectious or threatening.

• Coronavirus variants: The science explained

Are the new ones more dangerous?

There is no evidence that any of them cause much more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected.

As with the original version, the risk is highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions.

For the UK variant there is some research suggesting it may be associated with a 30 percent higher risk of death. The evidence is not strong and the data is still uncertain though.

Measures such as washing your hands, keeping your distance from other people and wearing a face covering will still help prevent infections. Because the new variants appear to spread more easily it is important to be extra vigilant.

- Source: BBC