New Strains of COVID-19 and Their Impact on Global Vaccination Efforts

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Scientists continue to monitor the new COVID-19 variants. Photo Credit: thescientist.com

Benjamin Martinez, Co-Business Manager

Since late December of 2020, two new strains of COVID-19 have arisen from mutations of the virus in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Scientists fear a prolonged pandemic due to higher transmission rates in these new strains. 

The new variants have sprung up just as global vaccination efforts began to rise. All across the world, vaccinating populations has got off to a bumpy start, however various  governments around the world are trying their best to disperse the vaccine. These more infectious strains could impede vaccination efforts. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Though the new strains are not thought to be more deadly, their spread raises the possibility of overloading already strained health-care systems.” Although these new strains are not more deadly than the strains of COVID-19 the world has already been dealing with, they could cause exponential growth in infection if the situation is not handled correctly. 

Even though new strains haven’t proved to be more deadly than current ones, a large increase in cases would lead to higher fatalities. Most hospitals around the country are already overloaded, and a greater pressure on the healthcare system would cause the mortality rate to rise significantly. Experts continue to monitor how the vaccine will contend with the new strains, and remain optimistic. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that, “…concerns include whether COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective…there is no evidence of this yet, but the experts are continuing to study the new strains.” 

The countries affected by the new strains, the UK and South Africa respectively, have imposed new stricter lockdowns to prevent the spread. The lockdowns in the UK are much more strict than those seen in the US. Along with the usual mask mandates and stay at home orders, the UK is also imposing 800 pound fines for breaking regulations, as well as 15,000 pound fines for having parties. Schools are still closed in England, however in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, most schools are open for in person instruction. The US is still trying to recover from various waves of COVID-19, especially after the holidays, and this new strain could be devastating. One must remember to follow all rules and regulations, especially wearing masks and keeping social distancing to ensure that the US does not have a disastrous situation.