LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - On Monday the Indiana State department of health announced that the new strain of COVID-19 made its way to Indiana. When asked where the variant was found ISDH said they could not share the information due to privacy laws. While this new variant is not any more deadly, it is more contagious.
According to experts, the new strain spreads more quickly because it has a change in the surface protein of the virus. That change allows it to bind to the receptor that is found on the host cell tighter. Tighter binding in this case means a more infectious virus. Dr. Richard Kuhn with the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease says these types of mutations are normal.
"It’s likely that it will become the dominant strain over the next two months or so I think that's a likely outcome of this,” said Dr. Kuhn. “Viruses are always evolving so there will be other variants too. I hope that the vaccine will also protect people from them as well.
Early studies that have been released suggest that the Pfizer vaccine will protect people against this variant virus. Dr. Kuhn says that the Moderna vaccine is showing the same results.
Dr. Kuhn says the only way a vaccine would not work is if the virus had multiple changes in its surface protein, which he says is unlikely to happen. However, in a worst-case scenario, the vaccine could be altered if needed.
“The beauty of the vaccine is that it can be easily changed so we could make changes that now represent the new variant virus,” added Dr. Kuhn.
He says the faster we get people vaccinated the better. When people are vaccinated against COVID-19, they cannot get the virus, which is how it mutates.
“Everybody is their own little incubator,” said Dr. Kuhn. “When you have kids around they are incubators of all kinds of viruses. But now think of this as every one of us that gets infected as an incubator and we can put out different variants of the same virus.”
While the virus isn’t more deadly the fact that the vaccine is more contagious is cause for concern.
“More contagious means that more people are probably going to get infected with the virus,” said Dr. Kuhn. “So the more people that get infected the higher incident of disease and you are going to get more deaths.”
That is why it is important for people to be vaccinated as soon as they can.
“When people have the opportunity to get the vaccine they should do so,” said Dr. Kuhn. “The vaccine is not going to cause COVID-19. It is not going to change your genetic makeup. It’s as safe as they come and right now it’s our only protection.”
Dr. Kuhn added that around 70 percent of people would need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be achieved, and life can get back to normal.