Should you wait to receive the coronavirus vaccine if new variants continue to arise? Chicago's top doctor weighs in.
In a Facebook live event Thursday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady encouraged city residents to receive the vaccine amid new coronavirus variants, saying the vaccine may never change.
"I'm not sure we're ever going to have to change the vaccine," Arwady said. "if we do, we're talking like way down the line in the context of variants."
As the U.S. continues to monitor new variants of COVID-19 emerging nationwide, Arwady noted that, in the future, manufactures could adapt or booster the vaccine with more information.
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The Food and Drug Administration said that modified coronavirus vaccines against new, emerging variants may be authorized without the need for lengthy clinical trials, CNBC reported.
"Preliminary reports from clinical trials evaluating COVID-19 vaccine candidates in multiple countries including South Africa have added to concerns that vaccine efficacy against the B.1.351 variant may be lower than against the original virus," the agency wrote in the document, referring to the strain found in South Africa. "Thus, there is an urgent need to initiate development and evaluation of vaccines against these SARSCoV-2 variants."
The CDC notes that "genetic mutations are expected, and some variants can spread and become predominant while others subside."
"I'm feeling confident at the moment that with the current variants that have emerged. We're in good shape," Arwady said. "My longer-term concern to be honest, really has to do with global vaccine equity. So, right the U.S. has done more than 50 million doses of vaccine. Most countries around the world have not even started vaccinating and you think about countries that are lower income, have fewer resources - COVID is there too and it is spreading, in some cases fairly unchecked. And that's the setting where you may see variants emerge... But if we had one emerge that, you know, you could imagine having to sort of start over again and that's the last thing anybody wants to do."
The main concern in the city, Arwady said, has been the variant first reported out of the U.K., which she noted has been detected in at least a dozen cases in the city, but more across the state.
"That's the one that is thought to be more infectious meaning more contagious, but the vaccine continues to be very protective against it as we saw in in this trial here," Arwady said during a Facebook Live this week.
Outside of the U.K. variant, others that originated in South Africa and Brazil have also appeared in the U.S., raising some concerns.
The Illinois Department of Public Health revealed earlier this month that the first case of the coronavirus variant B.1.351, first identified in South Africa, was found in the state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current variants "spread more easily and quickly than other variants."
But experts believe the current vaccines in the U.S. provide at least some level of protection against these variants, though Arwady noted one of the three strains poses a bigger risk than others and that is the variant out of South Africa.