(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The race is on to vaccinate as many people against COVID-19 before the virus mutates into a strain that is resistant to current treatments and vaccines.
Three variants that have originated in other parts of the world — the U.K., South Africa and Brazil — are being closely monitored by health officials to see how the mutated coronaviruses react to current treatments and vaccines.
Minnesota health officials on Monday confirmed that the first case of the Brazilian variant has been detected. The patient, a resident of the Twin Cities metro area, traveled to Brazil and tested positive for the virus in the first week of January.
Officials say of the Brazil variant, “while this variant is thought to be more transmissible than the initial 9 strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, it is not yet known whether the variant causes more severe illness.”
Health officials are also closely looking into who the patient had contact with, where they traveled and their illness.
Laboratory experiments that tested Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine so far have found the variants having little to no impact on its efficacy, but tests are still ongoing.
The novel coronavirus is an RNA virus, which are more likely to mutate and evolve more rapidly than DNA viruses, which gives them a higher chance of developing resistance to treatments.
To help speed up vaccination efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will now be “developing data dashboards to track personnel movement and vaccine distribution.”
In addition, FEMA will run federally administered vaccination centers.
Doctor David Kessler, co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said on SiriusXM that Americans need to prepare for a vaccination timeline — which will be later rather than sooner.
Said Kessler, “We’re not going to have everyone vaccinated in April, in May, right? Just not gonna happen. We got to get over 65, essential workers. I think this is going to take us into the fall. We got to get there before next winter.”
Speaking of the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson, Kessler believes the pandemic will come to an end sooner should it be more than 80 percent effective.