All viruses mutate. Scientists expected that the new coronavirus would change and adapt to the environment as it got opportunities to explore.
The problem with viral mutations is that the process can be unpredictable. If something happens that makes COVID-19 more transmissible or deadly, it could impact how we can manage the disease.
It also changes how the developed vaccines work against it, although the mRNA sequences are still relatively the same
Three Variants Have Scientists Sounding Alarms
We know of three coronavirus evolutions that have changed the way we respond to COVID-19. The first one happened in May 2020, which is the D614G variant. This change made the coronavirus more transmissible to others, although the death rates remained relatively constant.
The second variant is called B.1.1.7, commonly referred to as the “UK variant” in the press. Research suggests that this evolution not only makes the virus more contagious, but it could also be deadlier. Vaccine producers have enough concerns about it that they’re proposing a third booster might be necessary to provide enough protection.
A third variant is called B.1.351, which is often called the “South African variant.” It is more contagious, but it might have the same fatality rate among those it infects.
Additional variants in Ohio and Los Angeles have also been identified, with research exploring ways to treat these options.
What Will the Vaccines Do to the Variants?
The vaccine producers are not overly concerned about the different mutations they see in the coronavirus. Since they can quickly change the mRNA sequences that trigger an immune response in the body, it won’t take nearly as long to develop counter-agents against each new evolution.
What you might eventually see in a COVID-19 vaccination is a series of mRNA sequences for each variant that gets delivered all at once. For now, you’ll need to keep wearing a mask, practice social distancing, and take care of yourself to prevent these variants from spreading.