If you've been paying attention to the news, you'll know that many public health officials are worried about future variants. And if a vaccine-resistant strain becomes more prevalent, many experts believe that cities throughout the country (and the rest of the world) will be forced to go back into lockdown.
Of course, vaccinating as many people as possible is important. According to the CDC, Covid-19 is a horrifying disease that hospitalizes more than half of people over 65 who contract the virus. So by inoculating millions of people around the United States, hospitalization and death rates have substantially decreased. After all, 64% of the population has received at least one dose. But recent scientific studies have shown that millions of Americans with natural immunity can fight off new variants more effectively than those who haven't been infected with the virus. Quoting an article published by the BBC:
"You get a broader immune response after being infected with the virus than vaccination. Whether you've had Moderna or Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca, your body is learning to spot just one thing - the spike protein. This is the critical part of the virus to make antibodies to, and the results - by keeping most out of hospital - have been spectacular. But having the other 28 proteins to target would give T-cells far more to go at. That means if you had a real humdinger of an infection, you may have better immunity to any new variants that pop up as you have immunity to more than just spike."
Variants with a mild degree of vaccine resistance have already caused damage in other parts of the world. The Lambda variant recently wreaked havoc on a highly vaccinated population in Peru. According to current data, it's approximately 150 percent more resistant to antibodies produced by vaccines than the original strain. Since the current iterations of vaccines don't fully prevent human-to-human transmission, it didn't take long for hospitalization and death rates to spike throughout Peru. And right now, health officials (such as Dr. Fauci) are concerned about a potentially vaccine-resistant variant called "Mu" spreading in the United States.
All of this raises an intriguing dilemma that will divide citizens and politicians for months (if not years). Should the economy be shut down again to protect hospitals from being overrun by vaccine-resistant variants? Or should we keep cities open, but wear a mask and avoid social interactions if we're sick? Many public health experts believe going back into lockdown to protect the vulnerable is a better idea than gambling with people's lives while battling a vaccine-resistant variant. For example, that's precisely what the United Kingdom plans to do if a vaccine-resistant variant enters the country. Quoting George Eustice, a high-ranking official in the British Government:
"The biggest threat to the travel industry is that we do get another variant that manages to get around the vaccine, that the vaccine can't deal with, then we're into another full lockdown – and that's not what we want."
The same situation might occur in the United States. A future variant could plunge several states reluctantly back into lockdown. Masks might become mandatory in public areas again. Restrictions on social gatherings and stay-at-home orders could be reimposed. And of course, some people will advocate for continual booster shots to protect Americans against future variants.
But what do you think? Are you concerned about emerging variants? Leave a comment with your thoughts. And if you think more people should read this article, share it on social media.
The vaccines are safe and effective for most people. Plus, they reduce the probability of severe disease or death. So if you haven't already, it's worth talking to your doctor about getting vaccinated. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult a doctor before making any decisions that could impact your health.
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