Delta variant

COVID Variant Study Implies Variants Are Outsmarting Immune Systems

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The University of California, San Francisco looked at more than 1,300 COVID cases and found most of them involve variants. Variants that had room to mutate because so many people are still unvaccinated. 

Every two weeks, a new mutation of the coronavirus develops, doctors say this is typical for viruses just like COVID. Variants and mutations evolve to become more antibody resistant, which is what was found in the study looking at Bay Area COVID cases from earlier this year.

“On one level it doesn’t tell us much that’s surprising,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. “This is a tough study to follow. It's more speculation than reality.”

The study implies COVID’s variants are outsmarting our immune systems.

Out of 1,373 COVID cases, 125 to 9% were breakthrough cases. From those, 78% of infections in fully-vaccinated people were caused by variants with antibody resistant mutations.

There are three factors believed to be driving forces for breakthrough infections, more virus, waning immunity and variants with resilient mutations.

But as much as each of these factors is something to watch out for,  Dr. Chin-Hong says the widespread transmission of an aggressive virus, like COVID’s delta variant may actually be helping to keep even more dangerous variants at bay.

“Take for example delta versus lambda. Lambda looks really scary, on the surface when you look at the fact that it's more resistant to vaccines but so far delta is keeping it in check because it's really aggressive and pushing out lambda,” he said, adding that this doesn’t mean it’s easily-spread.

The study also implies that as long as the virus has a large number of unvaccinated people to infect, it will continue to mutate and evolve until eventually, the current vaccines can’t protect us. Making it all that much more important for everyone to get vaccinated. 

“The unvaccinated folks are the reservoirs of all the virus transmission in any community,” said Chin-Hong. “If you vaccinate all of them the forcefield is gonna get bigger and youre gonna stop the production of these mutants in general.”

Chin-Hong said getting vaccinated means you are currently five times less likely to be infected and more than 20 times less likely to get severely ill.

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