We can all see that Wave #3, with 50% plus variants, is upon us. In Ontario, B.1.1.7 (first discovered in U.K.) is the dominant variant strain and in B.C. it is the P.1 (first discovered in Brazil). Alberta has the most number of variants cases in Canada.
ICU beds are full and ‘elective’ surgeries are now starting to be put on hold. Unfortunately the new COVID-19 patients are of a younger group (age 40s-50s).
Whether or not Public Health and/or Governments impose a lockdown, we need to stay safe and stay home for the next few weeks.
Here are three takeaways
1) Variant Strains: Until we get enough vaccines IN ALL AGE GROUPS, we will not slow down the transmission of the existing variants effectively AND stop them from continuing to replicate and mutate. STOP traveling. Sending B.1.1.7 to BC and P.1 to Ontario will become a nightmare.
2) Vaccine Efficacy: Not all vaccines perform in the same way, likely based on how they were built, RNA-based versus viral protein-based. Early antibody testing of post-vaccination appears to demonstrate less efficacy in older populations. In other words, lower antibody response in the elderly vs younger people.
3) RAPID Testing for COVID-19: We must offer the use of RAPID Antigen testing kits within premises that have essential workers. PCR testing turnaround time is not always available within 24 hours. To mask up (KN95 and medical-grade masks only), perform RAPID COVID-19 testing at home and work, and avoid social gatherings.
Despite the SARS-CoV-2 virus possessing a ‘self-correcting’ enzyme that reduces coding errors, mutations causing variants are still occurring simply because of the massive scale of the virus load worldwide. More replications increase the chances that adaptive mutations will occur.
The good news is that all of the vaccines are effective against the original strain of COVID-19 originally discovered in Wuhan, China, because the vaccines were developed based on this strain. Geneticists called this strain the wild type. Since then, there have been many variants around the world. There are approximately 22 strains that worry scientists. Three variant strains concern them the most as they spread quickly across the globe (more transmittable) and are more deadly.
Antibody evasion by the Brazilian P.1 strain of SARS-CoV-2: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.12.435194v1
Mahase E. Covid-19: Where are we on vaccines and variants? BMJ 2021; 372 :n597 doi:10.1136/bmj.n597
New England Journal of Medicine. (2021, March 8). Neutralizing Activity of BNT162b2-Elicited Serum.