Increase in Coronavirus Variants and Their Effects on the Vaccine

January 7, 2021

Recent developments concerning the COVID-19 virus are leading to an increase in questions and unknowns about it. While various vaccines are being distributed across the globe, recent findings on SARS-CoV-2 variants are worrying many. Some of these variants are known to spread faster and transmit more efficiently than other variants of the virus. Three of the most widespread variants are the UK variant (D614G), the Y453F mutation found in minks, and the N501Y cluster spreading in England. The research article “Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean?” explains that while the specific manifestation of these variants differs, the Y453F brings into question other evolutionary challenges, such as an abundance of a new COVID-19 from other mammals to humans. What makes these coronavirus variants even more worrisome is that they are advanced concerning “viral replication, transmission, and escape immunity,” making them even more difficult to contend with than the original COVID-19 virus (1).
One primary concern is the vaccine effectiveness of these variants. The variants are mostly mutations in the spike protein; therefore, scientists have to consider if the vaccines, which stimulate an immune response to the spike protein, are still effective. Thus far, the major consensus regarding vaccine effectiveness is that since current vaccines target the entire spike protein, they are effective regardless of the few changes in the variant. It is also important to note that while the mutations are considered efficient for the virus, they can make it inefficient in the future. To be certain, the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 must be carefully monitored over time. In addition, regulation of mask mandates and physical distancing guidelines is essential in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and all of its variants.