Story at a glance

  • The U.K. variant is believed to be 50 percent more contagious than other strains of the virus and there is some evidence that it could even be deadlier than the current common strain.
  • Health officials say, however, current vaccines work against the variant that may become the dominant strain in the U.S.
  • Public health officials at the briefing also spoke specifically about the B.1.351 strain, which was identified in South Africa, and P.1, which has become dominant in Brazil.

The more contagious and possibly deadlier variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in the United Kingdom is confirmed to be present in more than half of the states across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“In the United States, 308 cases of B.1.1.7 variant that originated from the U.K. have been confirmed in 26 states as of January 26th,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday during a White House COVID-19 briefing


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“The variants that have been identified recently seem to spread more easily, they’re more transmissible, which can lead to an increased number of cases and increase stress on our already taxed health care system,” Walensky said. 

The U.K. variant is believed to be 50 percent more contagious than other strains of the virus and there is some evidence that it could even be deadlier than the current common strain. Health officials say, however, current vaccines work against the variant that may become the dominant strain in the U.S. 

Public health officials at the briefing also spoke specifically about the B.1.351 strain, which was identified in South Africa, and P.1, which has become dominant in Brazil. Walensky said the first U.S. case of the P.1 variant was reported in Minnesota while no cases of the B.1.351 have been identified in the U.S. at this time. 

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said while current vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna remain effective against the U.K. strain, “things get a bit more problematic,” when it comes to the strain dominant in South Africa. 

He said there is a “very slight, modest diminution,” of the effectiveness of the vaccines against the South African variant, but emphasized that “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective.” 

Fauci said Johnson & Johnson’s phase three trial is examining the effectiveness against the variant, while Moderna is studying a new version of its vaccine to use as a booster dose against the strain.


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Published on Jan 27, 2021