COVID-19 variants, vaccines and protecting yourself with the three Ws

By Regence
January 27, 2021

Viruses want to replicate themselves. Most change over time to adapt to conditions that make it easier for them to replicate and spread. That’s why we need to get a new flu shot every year.

The coronavirus is no different. Two new, more contagious strains first discovered in England and South Africa have now found their way into the U.S. President Biden has issued travel restrictions from Europe, Brazil and South Africa in hopes of stopping the new strains from entering our country. Scientists are still studying the variants to find out if they’re more lethal than the predominant strain. They’re also evaluating if the current vaccines are effective at fighting the new strains.

What can we do now? Humans essentially function as a coronavirus superhighway. Viruses don’t have legs. They go where we go.

What we know—and it’s good news—is that the three Ws are very effective at protecting against transmission of all variants: wear a mask, watch your distance in gatherings (physical distancing), and wash your hands regularly. Some recommend double masking when shopping or around others not from your household.

“These simple actions protect us, our families, and our communities. The more we can double-down this Winter and Spring, the sooner we can stop the spread and get kids back to school, people back to work, and resume our normal activities.” said Regence Senior Executive Medical Director Drew Oliveira.

Of course, simple is not always easy. The virus has been with us for nearly 12 months and people are growing weary. Yet there is cause for optimism.

“The vaccines have proven to be incredibly effective—95%—at preparing the body to fend off the virus,” said Dr. Oliveira. “While initial rollout has been challenging for federal and state agencies to manage, we do continue to make significant progress, and new vaccines are in the pipeline. All indications are that we will be safe slowly returning to our normal lifestyles this fall.”

Vaccines are rolling out in phases based on federal and state guidance. Once it’s your turn, you can get vaccinated at no cost. Even if you’ve had COVID-19, it is recommended you get vaccinated when you can. It’s still unclear how long natural immunity lasts. The vaccine would likely provide more protection.

Things change every day. Visit your state’s health department website for the most up-to-date information about vaccine prioritization and distribution in your community.

The CDC provides these resources to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine:

To learn more about the status of the vaccines in development, visit the New York Times vaccine tracker, the FDA or the CDC.

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