Let’s talk about viral mutations and the COVID-19 vaccines. I’m Dr. Jeff Kingsley. Welcome to another edition of Riding in Cars with Researchers.
Let’s start with viral mutations. Viruses mutate constantly. Every time you (every life form) are replicating, there’s the possibility of a mutation, a genetic anomaly, that results from the replication process. And then there are also mutations that come from outside environmental factors. But human beings mutate, but very, very slowly because we don’t replicate that much – two replications in a lifetime on average. Viruses are replicating millions and millions of copies a day. And so the potential for mutation is just that much greater. Mutations happen constantly across all viruses, not just this coronavirus. Proteins are huge molecules, they’re large, large molecules. You can see a mutation in the genetic code, but it doesn’t matter. Most mutations don’t change anything that actually made a difference. Some mutations could change something and make a virus weaker. Now, when a mutation happens that makes a virus weaker, that offspring tends not to survive and it dies off. And the predominant virus that was in the community remains when a mutation happens, that makes a virus stronger in some way. Then that virus tends to take over the community. And the older version of the virus tends to go away today.
The majority of the COVID-19 virus that’s around the world originated in Europe, not within China. There was a mutation that happened in Europe that gave that virus an advantage over the virus that came out of China. And now the majority of the virus that’s around the planet is that variant that came out of Europe. And right now there’s a new variant, a mutation that perhaps originated in London that we’re now discussing actively. What happened in London was that the epidemiologists could see that there was a community that had more transmission of COVID-19 than the other communities. And they were questioning why – was it a cultural thing? Was that community not doing social distancing? Were they not using masks? Was there a super spread or event? Was there a big party or event that happened in that community? And they couldn’t find anything. And then they look looked at the genetic profile of the virus in that community. And that’s how they uncovered that there’s a mutation. There’s a virus floating around in that community that’s now a little bit different. And now that virus is starting to travel around the world. It’s now in the US. That will never stop. Mutation will always happen. Don’t worry about that. Nothing we can do about that, that will happen. Not a big deal. The mutation is most likely not going to have any impact on the efficacy of our vaccines, just in terms of probabilities that mutation most likely will have nothing to do with the efficacy of our vaccines. And the other virus is going to continue to travel around the world. And we don’t know which one is going to become the predominant strain. So keep getting the vaccine – don’t stop vaccinate yourself.
Just like with the flu shot, the flu shot does not prevent you from getting every strain of flu that’s floating around the planet. It protects you from most strains of flu that are floating around the planet. And that’s why sometimes you can get the flu shot and still get the flu because you could get the flu shot, but contact a variant of the virus that the flu shot wasn’t designed to prevent. But getting the flu shots still protects you more than not getting the flu shot. It gives you more protection than had you not received it. I would view this the same right now. We have no evidence that the vaccine is ineffective against any of the new variants of the virus. Right now, all of our evidence is that the vaccine is still effective against every variant of the virus around the planet. So get vaccinated, it will give you more protection and it’s how we get out of this mess. Get vaccinated!
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