Health Experts Are Now Keeping An Eye On The Lambda Variant Of The Coronavirus

Public health experts have flagged the lambda variant of the COVID-19 virus as something that needs to be watched carefully over the coming weeks and months as it continues to rip through South America and other countries around the world, while researchers here in the states continue to try and determine whether or not the vaccines we have will work against it.

The lambda variant of the illness was first identified in the nation of Peru, where it has been responsible for a whopping 81 percent of all COVID cases that have been sequenced during the past several months. It was first discovered in December of 2020 and has been found in 29 countries including Mexico, Argentina, and Germany. So far, no cases have been confirmed here in the U.S.

via Washington Examiner:

The global health body designated the mutation as a “variant of interest,” but the WHO could upgrade the designation to “variant of concern” if researchers can prove that it spreads more easily or can evade the protection conferred by vaccines.

“Lambda carries a number of mutations with suspected phenotypic implications, such as a potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies,” the WHO went on to say in its pandemic status report published on June 15.

There have not been indications that lambda is more dangerous, but sequencing shows that the strain has a number of mutations that could increase transmissibility and make an outbreak much harder to suppress. Meanwhile, preliminary data from Chile suggest lambda could evade the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine, which already had a relatively low efficacy rate to start.

“We don’t have data for the lambda variant [versus U.S.-authorized vaccines], and we don’t have reasons to believe it will be different immunologically,” Dr. Stuart Ray, a researcher and infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine went on to explain. “Preliminary data makes us worry a little, but the CoronaVac is different in composition to what vaccines we have here.”

Researchers have said with confidence that the vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. hold up against other variants, such as delta and alpha, and drastically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. A team of virologists at New York University uploaded preliminary findings last week that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are only modestly less effective against the lambda variant, adding that lambda “is not likely to cause a significant loss of protection against infection.” Researchers will have to continue investigating the variant to ensure that fully vaccinated adults in the U.S. are safe.

As of now, more than 67 percent of adults in the United States have taken at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, while 58 percent have been fully vaccinated, having taken both doses. Things are looking a little rough for countries that happen to have lower rates of vaccination due to a shortage of shots.

Peru, for example, only has 14 percent of their population vaccinated with one dose. Peru has actually been one of the worst-hit countries in Latin America with more than 595 deaths per 100,000 people.

 

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