Vaccines and variants: What you need to know

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VIRGINIA (WDVM) — The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all proving to prevent severe illnesses from COVID and protect from mutations like the delta variant.

Marshall Vogt, the Division Epidemiologist and Co-lead of the Vaccine Unit for the Virginia Department of Health, tells WDVM what they know so far about the vaccine data.

“It looks like these vaccines are effective, and I’ll say, particularly against severe illness,” said Vogt. “It’s the hospitalizations, the really severe illness, and the excess mortality from covid-19 that we really want to prevent, because that’s where we have that burden on our healthcare system and where we can get to kind of those crisis levels, with our health care system that we saw at the beginning of COVID-19.”

When it comes down to natural immunity versus vaccine protection, he says data shows one is better than the other.

“We’re still learning more about the protection that comes with natural immunity versus the protection that comes with vaccines, although there have been studies done that indicate that you might actually have better immunity if you are vaccinated versus what we get from natural immunity,” said Vogt.

Every time a virus multiplies, there’s a chance for a mistake in the copy of genetic material, creating what we know as a variant of the virus.

“So in the case of the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, what we’re seeing is that sometimes when there are mutations, it’s making little changes to some of the proteins on the outside of the virus especially that spike protein,” said Vogt. “And that’s where we’re seeing some of these differences in different variations different mutations of the virus, like the delta variant that make it more infectious, or more easy to spread to other people.”

This is why stopping the spread and getting your vaccine can prevent further variants down the road.

Fairfax county is at 75.5% of adults with at least one vaccine but chairman Jeffery McKay says they’re still looking at ways to improve the county’s COVID response. In fact, the board voted on Tuesday in favor of a two-part review of the county’s pandemic response.

Chairman McKay said in a statement:

“We did a lot of good work this past year, but there are always things we can learn from and improve upon. A comprehensive review will help us evaluate how we did and how we can do better in the next emergency situation. In addition, if there is somewhere we fell short this time around, it will allow us to address it. Finally, we hope to look at some operational changes that we instituted that we may want to make permanent as well.”

Jeffery McKay, Fairfax County Chairman

Just for a quick vaccine analysis, Vogt says experts are happy if the flu vaccine we get every year is just 40 to 50% effective. In comparison, the COVID vaccines on the market are 70 to 95% effective against the virus.

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