Two studies due to come out soon suggest the variant, which the virologists call B.1.427/B.1.429, might not only be more contagious, but may also cause more severe disease.
A team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), tested virus samples from recent outbreaks across the state and found the new variant was becoming far more common. It wasn’t seen in any samples from September but by the end of January it was found in half of them.
A major caveat: the research is in its very early stages, has not been published or peer-reviewed and needs more work.
The scientists say the variant has a different pattern of mutations than the ones first seen in the United Kingdom and South Africa. One of its mutations affects the spike protein of the virus, which is the part that attaches to cells the virus infects. Dr. Charles Chiu, associate director of the clinical microbiology lab at UCSF and the study’s lead, said the mutation might make the virus more efficient at docking to cells, increasing its infectiousness.
Chiu’s team also found some evidence it is more dangerous. The scientists said they observed “increased severity of disease” associated with the new variant, including “increased risk of high oxygen requirement.” Their report will be posted to a preprint server later this week after public health officials in San Francisco review it.
Public health experts fear new variants are outpacing the vaccinations, which is why many have highlighted the need to double down on safety measures like wearing face masks, social distancing and avoiding crowded areas.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: How should I prepare for my Covid-19 vaccination?
A: Wait for your turn to make an appointment and ensure you follow all the instructions. Check if you need to fill in any paperwork in advance and bring all required documentation. Know what you need and make sure you have it.
And yes, you should absolutely wear a mask to your appointment.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Step inside Russia’s new Covid-19 vaccine factory
The facility where Soviet scientists once researched biological weapons is now being used to mass-produce a Covid-19 vaccine. Home to Generium Pharmaceutical, which has been contracted to scale up production of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, the vast high-tech complex in Volginsky, about 70 miles east of Moscow, is one of seven new factories across the country.
Ghana is first country to get vaccines through COVAX
The country of 30 million is getting 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India. Ghana has reported at least 80,759 cases of Covid-19 and 582 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
US to get 240 million vaccine doses by April
Pfizer and Moderna — the two companies with Covid-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States — have pledged to make a combined total of 220 million doses available for shipment by the end of March. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, which could secure emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine from the US Food and Drug Administration later this week, has pledged to make 20 million doses available in the same period.
ON OUR RADAR
- A study that found teachers — not students — were the probable source of several school-related Covid-19 outbreaks highlights the need to maintain safety measures, and to prioritize teachers and school staff for vaccination, the CDC said.
- WHO reports the sixth consecutive week of declining global coronavirus cases.
- The Philippines will allow nurses to work in Britain and Germany in exchange for coronavirus vaccines.
- US President Joe Biden says his administration will “probably” mail out millions of masks soon.
- Some TV shows are telling stories about the pandemic. Some viewers wish they wouldn’t.
- A new app to help travelers store and manage their certifications for Covid-19 tests and vaccines is set to launch next month.
There are ways to decrease loneliness even in a lockdown. For example, this new study shows that talking to someone on the phone for just 10 minutes several times a week — if you’re in control of the conversation — can make a big difference.
Zoologist and the president of EcoHealth Alliance Peter Daszak has just returned from Wuhan, China. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to him about what it’s like there now, and his findings as part of a World Health Organization investigation Listen now.