The scientific community continues to focus on the delta variant, but are also vigilantly working to figure out what the next iteration of the virus may bring. According to a recent report from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies in the United Kingdom, the virus is very likely to evolve into a still more dangerous form.
“One thing we know for sure is that the virus will continue to pick up mutations because there’s so much ongoing spread,” said Dr. David Engelthaler, a TGen Epidemiologist.
Dr. Engelthaler and his team are sequencing the genetics of 10% of all COVID-19 cases in the state. He says at the moment, the delta variant is by far the dominant strain accounting for more than 80% of cases.
“And because of that we’re gonna see some new variants, probably some different flavors of this delta variant right now,” said Dr. Engelthaler.
According to the report out of the UK, the impact of those variants can vary dramatically. However, they do consider the development of strains with increased lethality a “realistic possibility.”
“We’ve actually been going a little bit in the opposite direction, the first strains out of China had a very high mortality rate early on but it didn’t spread as much,” said Dr. Engelthaler.
The delta however has mastered the ability to spread, transmitting its enormous viral loads faster than any before it. It’s that spread which that same report says will almost certainly lead to vaccine busting variants.
“That is a high likelihood that we will have variants a year or two from now that are actually evading a lot of the antibodies we’re generating now either from vaccines or previous infections,” said Dr. Engelthaler.
This means booster shots are likely in our future, but make no mistake, there is a way to prevent much of this from happening. Dr. Engelthaler says it starts and stops with getting vaccinated now.
In July 89% of cases state-wide were found in those still not fully vaccinated.
Breakthrough cases are still only occurring at a rate of 0.002%.
But Dr. Engelthaler says it’s not just about getting countries like the US vaccinated, but those all over the world with minuscule vaccination rates.
There are still 77 countries with less than 20% of their population currently vaccinated.
“They have to get vaccinated too because a threat of this virus changing and mutating anywhere is really a threat to everywhere,” said Dr. Engelthaler.