What do we know about COVID-19 variants?

Virus Outbreak Variant
SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe.
NIAID-RML via AP file

Minnesota has 16 confirmed cases of the U.K. COVID-19 variant and two confirmed cases of the Brazilian variants, as of the first week in February. And scientists are concerned that even more people might be infected and that the efficacy of vaccines might diminish as new mutations of the virus appear.

The emergence of new variants paired with the sluggish initial vaccine rollout has some experts pushing states to prioritize administering as many first doses as possible, rather than holding back reserves for others to get their second dose. Their argument is that even one dose offers protection and it limits potential hosts for further mutations.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still advising states to administer the shots the way they were clinically tested to ensure people benefit from the full strength of the vaccine.

The vaccines that are currently available in the U.S. each require two doses, but Johnson & Johnson has applied for approval of their single dose formula, and if all goes well, their vaccine might be available by the end of February or the beginning of March.

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Monday, host Kerri Miller spoke with two health professionals about what we know about the emerging coronavirus variants so far and best practices for slowing the spread. 


  • Dr. Preeti Malani is chief health officer at the University of Michigan. She is also a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

  • Dr. Stanley Perlman is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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