New COVID-19 Strains: What You Should Know

A new strain of COVID-19 that has been detected in other parts of the world has now been found in the United States. This new strain is concerning because it could be as much as 70 percent more infectious.

What Are We Doing to Slow the Spread?

Beth Israel Lahey Health is continuing to follow all COVID-19 protocols and is vaccinating more front-line workers every day.

The U.K. strain has already appeared in Colorado in an individual who has no history of travel and in California, so the new strain is already circulating in the U.S. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed on December 29th that the circulation of the new strain within the U.S. is likely.

U.K. officials are conducting investigations to determine how the new strains act, how infectious they are, if they can make people more ill, and if it can re-infect previous COVID-19 patients.

The World Health Organization (WHO) are also researching how the virus could alter vaccine efficacy, but currently expectations of one mutation altering the efficacy of the vaccine are extremely low.

Will the Vaccine Still Work?

All signs currently point to yes. Moncef Slaoui, top scientist on Operation Warp Speed says that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines should be effective against the new strains.

Testing is being conducted to confirm that the vaccines will continue to work. There is currently no evidence to suggest that current vaccines will be ineffective. However, it is more vital than ever to bring down cases to avoid future mutations.

What Should I Do?
  1. Get the vaccine when you can.
  2. Continue to follow all COVID-19 precautions recommended by the CDC, stay six feet apart, cover your mouth and nose with a mask in public spaces, stay home if you feel sick, and wash your hands regularly (for more tips, see here).
  3. Remind children and family members to follow COVID-19 precautions because of their ability to unknowingly give others COVID-19 if they do not know they are sick themselves.

Illustration of phases of the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts