Here’s What Pinoys Need to Know About the COVID-19 Mutations
Feb 4, 2021   •   Cristina Morales
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Feb 4, 2021   •   Cristina Morales
Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been mutating. Now that vaccines are being rolled out, you could be wondering whether these vaccines would be effective against the new strains. Here’s what you need to know about the mutations:
Virus mutations are normal and expected. New variants occur when something in the virus’ genes change or mutate. This happens to all viruses naturally over time. Flu viruses mutate often, which is why we are encouraged to take flu vaccines every year.
Most mutations have little impact on the behavior of the virus, but every so often, a virus mutates in a way that makes it more infectious and/or less receptive to medicine.
The P.1 variant (also known as B.1.1.248) was first found in samples from northern Brazil in mid-December. These findings were published on January 12.
This variant has a mutation that enables it to bind more easily with human cells, which could make it more transmissible. It also has a mutation that helps the coronavirus evade antibodies, which means it’s possible that someone who had already been infected with the coronavirus could be reinfected by a variant.
It has not been detected in the Philippines. The P.1 virus has been confirmed in Brazil, Peru, Germany, South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.
More research is needed. The P.1 variant may be able to evade coronavirus-fighting antibodies, which could impact the efficacy of current vaccines. However, that doesn’t mean that currently available vaccines won’t work against this variant. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech found that their mRNA vaccines were only slightly less effective against the B.1.135 variant from South Africa (which has the same mutation that evades antibodies). Over time, vaccines will be reformulated to respond to this mutation.
The B.1.1.7 variant was found in London and Kent in September (which is why it’s also called the “Kent variant”). This variant seems to be more infectious than the more common strain, and according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it may also be more deadly than previous mutations.
Yes. The first confirmed case was announced on January 13 — a Filipino who had traveled to Dubai. According to the WHO, the UK variant has been detected in at least 70 countries.
Though current vaccines may be less effective against the UK variant, scientists say that the existing vaccines should still work work against this mutation. However, more research is still needed.
Also called B1.351, this mutation was detected in South Africa late last year. According to South Africa’s health minister, the mutation seemed to affect young people more compared to previous strains. Similar to the UK variant, the South Africa strain seems to be more transmissible. There is no sign, however, that it is more deadly.
The South Africa variant has not yet been detected in the Philippines. The mutation has been identified in 30 countries, including the United States, the UK, Australia, and Canada.
It’s believed that vaccines will still work against the South Africa variant, but possibly with diminished effectivity. Some of the variant’s mutations — including the E484K and K417N — are thought to make the variant more resistant to antibody therapies. More research is still needed to come to a conclusion.
First detected in Denmark in March 2020, the Denmark variant is still being studied by scientists to understand whether it’s more transmissible or lethal than the dominant mutation.
It has not yet been detected in the Philippines. The mutation has recently been linked to outbreaks in California.
More research still needs to be done before the scientific community can come to a conclusion, but some scientists think that it could be more resistant to vaccines.
Simply called “G” by scientists, this strain was discovered in China in January 2020. Thought to be more transmissible than the original strain of the virus, it soon spread through New York and Europe. It is now the dominant variant.
Yes. The D614G variant was confirmed to be in the country in August 2020.
Because the G variant was the dominant strain when 2020 vaccine trials were taking place, the vaccines should be effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown to be 95% effective against the variant.
As long as the virus continues to spread, there will be more mutations. But we can slow down the spread. We need to stay vigilant and continue practicing protective measures like frequent handwashing, physical distancing, wearing masks, limiting gatherings, and so forth. And when vaccines become available, we should get vaccinated to slow down the virus’ spread.
Back in January, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US said it best: “It is all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as we possibly can, because… viruses don’t mutate unless they replicate.”
What are you doing to keep yourself safe?
Though a chronic dabbler in whatever tickles her fancy, Cristina claims she can count her passions on one hand: feminism, literature, the environment, embroidery, and the power of a solid pop song. She lives in Uniqlo lounge pants and refuses to leave the house without a winged eye.
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