COVID ‘vaccines are working’: Amid caution and concern, experts celebrate vaccine efficacy

Several new coronavirus variants have been identified in the United States in recent weeks, and scientists are grappling with whether these strains threaten the country — and, if so, how.

One thing experts agree on, though, is that the available vaccines have outperformed expectations — even when it comes to what are known as the “variants of concern.”

“This virus is not invincible, and despite all these variants, the vaccines are working great,” said Jeremy Kamil, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport.

“That is really outstanding and people should be celebrating that.”

While it’s likely that other variants will continue to emerge as pockets of outbreaks simmer around the country, Kamil says that alone isn’t cause for alarm.

Rather than fret over each new strain that is identified, he says the most important thing Americans can do now is try to contain the virus by staying safe and getting vaccinated, particularly because the vaccines are so effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths.

‘Don’t let your guard down’

“There are certain variants that are more transmissible, and we have strong data on that, but the thing people should take away from the variant story is just: Don’t let your guard down,” said Kamil, who co-led a research team that in February identified a previously undetected variant in Louisiana.

But some states are letting their guard down, even as case rates in the US remain stubbornly high despite a drop in recent weeks.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday that cases had plateaued at a level that is “really very high.”

An average of 1706 people had died each day in the past week, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and an average of more than 59,000 cases were reported each day last week.

Meanwhile, some states including Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, West Virginia and Connecticut have announced significant changes to pandemic restrictions related to masks and indoor capacity limits.

Experts say the vaccine rollout in the US appears to be working. Credit: REUTERS

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