Florida Sees First Cases of Lambda Variant Which Could Evade Vaccines

Tom Stevenson

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With over 40,000 deaths, Florida has had one of the worst outcomes of any state during the pandemic. Recently, that has seen hospitalizations reach record heights as the Delta variant has swept through the state.

Now concern is ratcheting up a gear as worries that the Lambda variant among others is also spreading in the state.

Michael Teng, associate professor of the College of Medicine Internal Medicine at University of South Florida Health, had this to say when he was quizzed about the Lambda variant:

"One of them is called lambda, and it’s been named as a variant of interest by the WHO, and it’s the dominant variant in South America and Peru.”

The reason for the concern is that the Lambda variant has wreaked havoc in Peru with nearly 200,000 deaths in the country as of writing. The concern around the Lambda variant is that it could evade vaccines. This is what seemed to happen in Chile, with Lambda spiking there despite a large vaccination effort.

But the surge in cases in the country is likely due to several factors. One of which is the CoronaVac vaccine. A study by the University of Chile found a single dose of the vaccine was only 3 percent effective, while that rose to 56.5 after two doses.

Studies on the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against Lambda look to be more positive, although there have only been a few studies carried out. Nathaniel Landau, a microbiologist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, who led one study, had this to say on the efficacy of mRNA vaccines against the variant:

“We believe that, at least for the mRNA vaccines—Moderna and Pfizer, that those vaccines will protect very well against Lambda, in the same way that they protect against the Delta virus. Even though some of the antibody no longer works against the variants, it's still enough that they will fight the virus and get rid of it pretty well.”

While the Lambda variant may be able to evade some vaccines, it looks as if the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide good protection against the variant.

Lambda isn't the only variant spreading in Florida, with the B.1.621 variant also spreading, particularly in the Jacksonville area. It's too early to say whether this variant will be a cause for concern, but Teng had this to say on the matter:

“There’s another variant that has not received the WHO designation, and it’s called B1-621, and that one became dominant in Colombia, and these two variants have some level of transmissibility at least in those two countries.”

If Lambda becomes the dominant strain in the state it could cause issues especially if it does successfully evade vaccines. That said, the best protection against infection is to get vaccinated and with the Delta variant still the dominant strain, getting vaccinated is your best bet to prevent serious illness.

But the emergence of new variants, and their potential to evade vaccines indicates the pandemic is far from over.

Leave me a comment below on your thoughts about the Lambda variant.

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