Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield holds a CDC document that reads “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Guidelines for Jurisdictional Operations” as he speaks during a Senate Subcommittee listening to a “Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts” on Capitol Hill, Washington, USA, September 16, 2020.
Andrew Harnik | Reuters
The kind that is more contagious than corona virus first discovered in Britain late last year could become the dominant strain in the United States in March as the nation races to vaccinate people against the disease, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This variant track model at the US show rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the main variant in March, “according to the CDC study was released Friday.
Researchers warn that the increased spread could add more pressure to state hospitals and could require greater public health action to stop transmission of the virus until enough people are vaccinated. Increased surveillance of the mutated virus combined with greater adherence to public health measures, such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining physical distancing, could help slow the spread of the virus, they said.
“These measures will be more effective if implemented sooner than slowly to slow the initial spread of variant B.1.1.7. Efforts to prepare the health care system for a further surge in cases are needed,” the researchers said.
So far, the country has found only 76 cases of Covid-19 with the highly contagious variant, known as B.1.1.7, according to CDC data last updated on Wednesday. However, many of the cases that have been identified have occurred in people with no travel history, which suggests that the variant spreads in communities without being detected.
Global health experts have stated that although the new variants found in the UK and a similar strain found in South Africa are more contagious, they do not appear to make people sicker or increase a person’s chances of dying.
However, more cases could ultimately lead to additional hospitalizations at a time when the country is already experiencing its highest rates of Covid-19 patients. Rapid transmission of the new variant may require more people to get vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity, the researchers said.
Herd immunity is when enough of a population is immune to a disease, either through vaccination or natural infection, so that it is impossible to spread and protect the entire community, the Mayo Clinic said.
The US has had a slow start in vaccination efforts, losing its goal of inoculating 20 million people by the end of last year. The US has given more than 31.1 million doses so far but only gave 12.3 million of them, according CDC data.
There are also concern that a new variant, particularly the strain found in South Africa, could be more resistant to monoclonal antibody treatment, which has been shown to reduce a person’s chances of hospital admission if given early enough for their infection.
The agency’s research says that while the current prevalence of the variant in the US is still unknown, it is estimated that it is less than 0.5% of cases based on the analysis. The US has not detected a variant found in South Africa or another strain identified in Japan among travelers from Brazil, the researchers said.
In their model, the researchers estimated that the variant was 50% more infectious than the current strain. They also estimate that between 10% and 30% of people already have immunity from pre-existing infections and that 1 million doses of vaccine will be given a day starting this month.
Although the prevalence of the B.1.1.7 strain is considered low, given its high transmissibility, it is likely to grow rapidly in early 2021, the model shows. Even with vaccines, variants will continue to spread, even though the drugs show the greatest effect in reducing transmission of strains where the disease has decreased.
“Early efforts that could limit the spread of variant B.1.1.7, such as universality and increased adherence to public health mitigation strategies, would allow more time for ongoing vaccination to achieve higher population-level immunity,” the study said.