Here’s why ‘tweaking’ vaccines to fight COVID variants could be faster and easier – WFMYNews2.com

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Here’s why ‘tweaking’ vaccines to fight COVID variants could be faster and easier – WFMYNews2.com

Scientists who developed existing COVID vaccines are already working on ways to make them more effective. TAMPA, Fla. — O

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Scientists who developed existing COVID vaccines are already working on ways to make them more effective.

TAMPA, Fla. — One of the biggest concerns we’ve been hearing about lately is related to COVID-19 variants popping up around the world and closer to home.

For now, they only make up a small percentage of the number of cases out there, but medical experts say that’s likely to change rapidly.

“Definitely, it is a concern. It’s not something we can ignore,” said infectious disease specialist Nikhil Bhayani.

Bhayani and other medical experts say If you’ve already had COVID-19, in fact even if you’ve already been vaccinated, there’s growing evidence that some people will still be re-infected.

“I don’t think we have enough data for anyone to feel completely Scot-free or completely immune to COVID,” said infectious disease pharmacist Crystal Howell.

Variants are spreading rapidly. So rapidly, that scientists who developed existing COVID vaccines are already working on ways to tweak them – making them more effective against the virus mutations.

“With this new technology we are able to adjust those vaccines a lot quicker than we used to be able to,” said Dr. Dave Hnida.

Hnida says part of the reason COVID vaccines can be tweaked faster and perhaps more easily is that they’ve been created using mRNA technology – the parts of which could be compared with Lego bricks.

“You could almost look at the vaccine architecture as almost like a Lego set. If you have part of that Lego said that just doesn’t work anymore, what you do is remove that piece and you insert a new one,” said Hnida. “A little harder than that sounds perfect, that’s the basic concept.”

Still, until those tweaks are made, public health experts say everyone, including those who’ve had COVID, received their shot, or are still waiting for one, should continue to mask up, avoid crowds and maintain social distance.

“It needs a person to be in for it to mutate,” said Hnida. “So, if we can slow the spread, continue going in the direction we’re going as well as upping the vaccination numbers, I think we’re really heading in a good direction.”

Here’s why public health experts say that is so important.

Right now, mutated strains make up just about 3 percent of the cases identified in the U.S.

But the variants are multiplying so quickly that they expect that number could approach 50 percent of all cases by the time we hit the second or third week of March.

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