Samuel Scarpino in Bloomberg: U.S. Arrival of Highly Contagious Variant Draws CDC Scrutiny
by Fiona Rutherford, Bloomberg
Federal Health officials are ramping up their surveillance of the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant first identified in India as experts warn that under-vaccinated areas in the U.S. could become hot spots for the mutation.
While U.S. cases attributed to the B.1.617 variant currently sit below 1%, the growth rate remains unclear due to the small sample size. Meanwhile, one science group said the strain could be as much as 50% more transmissible than B.1.1.7, the variant that emerged from the U.K. That mutation was first seen in the U.S. in late December, and is now dominant nationally.
A just-released U.K. study found the Pfizer Inc.–BioNTech SE vaccine was “highly effective” against a form of the B.1.617 variant two weeks after the second dose, affirming preliminary data from Phase 3 clinical trials. Still, the mutation has arrived in the U.S. at a time when anti-pandemic measures are loosening and around 60% of the population isn’t yet fully vaccinated.
“From everything I can tell the vaccines are highly effective against this variant,” said Samuel Scarpino, a co-founder of Global.health, an organization that tracks Covid cases and variants internationally. “But there are some states in the U.S. with quite low vaccination coverage putting them at risk for potential outbreaks.”