Illinois' first case of a more contagious COVID-19 variant from Brazil has been identified in a patient in Chicago.
- As essential workers and people over 65 begin to get vaccinated this week, infectious disease doctors say, rolling out the vaccine quickly is a must to prevent more COVID variants from developing. Already, many have surfaced in the United States, including Illinois.
RICHARD NOVAK: Fortunately, it doesn't mutate as rapidly as influenza does. But because there are so many people who are infected and at risk for infection, we're allowing the virus to develop these variants.
- UIC Infectious Disease Head Dr. Richard Novak says, some of the variants are more contagious and are not protected by natural immunity.
RICHARD NOVAK: Once somebody has had the infection, they make their own antibodies. Those antibodies don't seem to protect against reinfection with these new variants, both the Brazilian and the South African variants.
- There is also concern current vaccines may not be as effective against the new variants, but doctors say, they are effective enough to protect people.
ALLISON BARTLETT: These vaccines from the outset were amazingly effective. You know, 95% was beyond our wildest dreams of what we were expecting, and any incremental decrease in these vaccines is still a significant amount of protection.
- Doctors say, the key is staying one step ahead of the variants. Moderna and Pfizer are already working on boosters.
ALLISON BARTLETT: The need for boosters in the coming years was sort of a given for these vaccines given the uncertainty on the duration of immunity.
SARAH SCHULTE: University of Chicago's Dr. Alison Bartlett says, the advantage of the current mRNA vaccines is tweaking them through technology can be done much more quickly compared to a flu vaccine.
And because vaccines are part of the solution, and it's going to take a while before everyone is vaccinated, doctors say, these new variants are just a reminder of how important it is to double down on all the protocols we've been living with for the past few months. Sarah Shulte, ABC 7, Eyewitness News.