4 News Now Q&A: Should Washingtonians be worried about the COVID-19 variants?

Your Questions Answered

Q: Should Washingtonians be worried about the COVID-19 variants? 

A: The pandemic is far from over, but local health experts say a decrease in cases, hospitalizations and deaths are signs of hope. Now, it’s a race against the COVID-19 variants, which are believed to be more deadly.

In its latest update, the Department of Health said it just expanded its ability to identify new strains of the virus. State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said they have now detected 70 cases of the variant first found in the United Kingdom. That’s up 39 cases from last week. Five cases of the South African variant are here in Washington as well.

“But the good news is we can detect these through our expanded capabilities,” Dr. Shah said. “Of course,  the not so good news is that these variants are believed to be more infectious and easier to spread and they are now here in Washington. This makes our race to vaccinate Washingtonians as quickly and as equitably as possible even more important.”

Vaccines on the market right now seem to be working against today’s variants. But drug makers are already take steps to update their formulas if health experts decide its needed.Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are made with new technology that is easier to tweak. And the FDA says studies of these updated shots will not have to be as large or as long as their original versions.

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