• arohi bhattacharya

How the United States plans on combatting the COVID-19 variants

Not only has the world had to handle the inevitable consequences of the international pandemic but recently being forced to deal with the new variants of the COVID-19 virus. From the 50% more transmissible UK variant to the most recent discovery of the B1 variant in Brazil, physicians across the world are becoming increasingly more nervous and confused about the origins of these new variants, and how we can attack them.

Here in the United States, however, who has multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants, many are concerned about the retrograde in terms of the COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson-and-Johnson and other companies are releasing vaccinations and becoming increasingly eligible to spread to many citizens on all coasts of the country. Many people are starting to question these companies and are asking questions. Are these vaccines effective for the variants? Or do we have to go through the entire process of creating and distributing vaccines for every single variant?

According to Pfizer’s chief scientist Mikael Dolsten, the company is working on producing various vaccines that “are able to actually act against all mutants and many different coronaviruses”. Pfizer, also known as BioNTech, came out with the first COVID vaccine in an emergency dose authorized to certain individuals 16 years and older in December of 2020. Since then, 100 million doses of different COVID-19 vaccines have been administered all across the United States. However, in order to be able to combat the new variants effectively, the primary steps before creating these treatments is fully understanding the virus now and its multiple variants. So far, the treatments are already in Phase 1B trial, and researchers anticipate it to reach Phase 2 or 3 by this summer.

Dolsten continues to urge Americans to get vaccinated if they are eligible. He says large scale vaccination throughout the country and even the world is the most likely possibility in terminating the pandemic.

“We need to vaccinate basically everyone to reduce the safe harbor for the viruses to stay and mutate in people that are not immune,” Dolsten said.

Personally, I agree with Dolsten -- herd immunity within such a developed country as the United States should’ve happened earlier. Yet, because previously disruptive political authorities were unable to take the appropriate handle on the pandemic in the first case, the government now not only has to prevent further damage to get America back to some form of normality but fix what has broken down in the past. The lack of a united effort to combat this disease from the very beginning is definitely prominent, especially in comparison with countries like New Zealand, who have very effectively been able to minimize the virus. Having mass vaccination in the United States will inevitably decrease the risk of COVID-19 spreading as violently as it is now.

Variants for diseases like COVID-19 aren’t uncommon, also. The 1918 Influenza (H1N1) pandemic had countless variants that, unfortunately, turned into more pandemics themselves (such as the 1957 H2N2 virus). Hopefully, knock on wood, America’s scientific experts can drive education and success in not only combatting the new COVID variants in the United States but internationally as well.

In more positive light, Moderna’s current vaccine has been proven to work against the South African and UK variants, according to a Washington Post article. While the government and new presidential administration focuses on distributing the vaccines that are already in use, companies can shift their attention on ways to combat the new COVID-19 variants in the United States.