SEATTLE — The new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus — first found in the United Kingdom – is in Washington state, and some scientists predict it will likely become the dominant variant in the United States.
However, there have been different stories about how dangerous the new UK variant is.
Dr. Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, told NPR earlier this month that based on how quickly it spread in the United Kingdom, he predicts the new variant will become the dominant COVID-19 strain in our country by the spring.
Dr. Alex Greninger, a virologist at UW Medicine, told KING 5, “I think that’s an accurate forecast.”
Greninger said, for now, COVID-19 vaccines should work against the UK variant.
“We wouldn't expect any viruses right now to be vaccine resistant, or right out of the gate,” explained Greninger. “It's a question of what happens down the line?”
In other words, as the coronavirus mutates, so will the vaccine’s ability to fight it.
“We expect this coronavirus to chip away at our immunity,” said Greninger. “So, it's not any one change that it makes, but a number of changes [over time].”
New data from the UK suggests that, contrary to the initial reports, the UK strain might actually be more deadly than the original variant.
Dr. Peter Rabinowitz is the director of the UW Center for One Health Research. He told KING 5 that would not be a total shock if the variant is more deadly because as endless as it has seemed for the public, the pandemic is – scientifically speaking - still in its infancy and the virus will continue to mutate.
“It makes total sense that, just like with influenza, we are going to see strains that are more transmissible than what we've dealt with before, and that we're going to see strains that may escape the vaccine to some degree,” Rabinowitz told KING 5.
We can verify the new UK coronavirus variant poses multiple problems, not just in prevalence but also in its potential power, and we may not know its ultimate effect for some time.