There’s plenty of confidence current COVID vaccines will stand up to present and future variants of concern.
The ever-mutating virus has already made several shifts from its original form. Currently the Delta variant has taken hold in the province and much of the country. There’s also a new Lambda variant that’s recently arrived in Canada and now Ontario.
And while COVID vaccines were developed prior to these mutations, the evidence suggests they’re well equipped to handle them and keep people safe.
“The vaccines that are specific to the spike protein of COVID-19 virus seem to have a broad activity against all of the variants that have so far been described,” says Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby. “I’m optimistic that vaccines will continue to be active against the variants of this virus that are continuing to arise.”
“This particular strain of coronavirus… what makes it unique are the characteristics that it has. When you develop a vaccine against those particular characteristics it would have to radically mutate to the point where it would almost be a different strain altogether before the vaccine lost its activity against them,” he says.
Still, even double dosed folks may still be in for future COVID shots. Canada’s Public Health unit says there’s a chance booster shots may be needed down the road, similar to the yearly flu vaccine. For now though the focus remains on getting people their first and second doses.
Another goal is trying to stop these new variants from rapidly spreading in the first place. Colby says it’s “very hard to say” whether they can be contained. “The variation of the virus is kind of a random process, mutations in the viral genome arise and the ones that tend to spread around are those that are more easily transmitted. So they just naturally take the place of the previous versions that are not quite as easily transmitted.”
But whether they do take hold or not, the constant defence against them has continually proven to be vaccines. “Having two vaccines is very protective against infection. Interestingly, those that have been fully vaccinated who do manage to get infected have a very mild syndrome and all of the studies so far indicate they don’t excrete enough virus to be very much of a transmission. So there’s every reason to get vaccinated,” says Colby.
Chatham-Kent has hit the 75 per cent mark for adult first doses and 48 per cent in kids 12-17. There’s 54 per cent of adults with both doses.
In total Monday, 68,112 residents age 12 and up have gotten one shot and 47,440 of them are double vaxxed.
Colby says any new COVID cases in Chatham-Kent are now fully among the non-vaccinated or single-dose population. He’s hopeful a continued strong vaccine effort will win over the holdouts.
“It seems that there are still people who are vaccine-hesitant despite all of the evidence of how well it works. It seems to me that they don’t want to listen to the science, that they’re basing their assessment on their own ideology or the ideology of someone else that they’ve chosen to believe over the scientific evidence,” says Colby.
“One of the arguments I hear most from the vaccine-hesitant is that these vaccines have not been sufficiently tested and that they were rushed into production… That is certainly not true. The average vaccine would get about 6,000 test subjects before marketing and Pfizer and Moderna had over 40,000 each. They’re extensively tested.”
“So I think we just need to continue to demonstrate that vaccination is doing a wonderful job at protecting the people of Chatham-Kent and Ontario and Canada and hopefully the world.”
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent