Coronavirus: Vaccination key to slowing mutation of highly-contagious variants, doctors say

ORLANDO, Fla. — Physicians have attributed the summer surge in COVID-19 cases to the highly-contagious delta variant of the virus.

Once the mutation made its way to Florida, new cases began to rise rapidly in the state.

“The delta variant changes everything,” Data Scientist Eric Solomon said.

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Now, coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have declined, but doctors say there will be more variants to come.

“The virus that causes COVID mutates constantly, like all living things do,” UF Health Epidemiologist Dr. Nicole Iovine said.

The only way to stop or at least slow that virus’ ability to mutate, Dr. Iovine says, is for more people to get vaccinated.

“If the virus isn’t being passed around, there’s nobody for it to mutate in,” Iovine said.

According to the most recent data, approximately 64-percent of all eligible Americans have received at least one shot, leaving the remaining 36-percent without a single dose of protection.

The rate at which people are getting vaccinated is also dropping with each week that passes, and now, there’s an even newer variant to watch out for: Mu.

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The World Health Organization currently has mu classified as a “variant of interest” Although mu only accounts for less than one percent of new cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci says they’re still watching it very closely.

“Even though it has not taken hold to any extent, we always pay attention at all times to variants,” Dr. Fauci said.

Scientists say the mu variant is less transmissible than the delta, but studies show it can evade the COVID vaccines currently available, but it’s still not clear to what degree. Dr. Iovine says the vaccines could still be highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death.

While the emergence of the mu variant has been concerning, epidemiologists say delta is still their main focus because of how easily it spreads.

“If you were to have delta and mu in a boxing ring, delta is gonna win,” Dr. Iovine said.

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However, scientists stress that if more people don’t get vaccinated another new variant could appear..

“If we still have unvaccinated people up there, it’s entirely possible that a mutant that is highly transmissible and highly vaccine resistant could emerge.” Dr. Iovine said. “We can stop it. We just have to do it.”

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