TWIN FALLS, Idaho — COVID-19 variant cases have been confirmed all over Idaho, and as vaccine rollouts continue, some people are expressing concerns and uncertainty about the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Many of the variants spreading now were not in the U.S. or not confirmed when the current COVID vaccines were being developed.
“When the first two vaccines were studied, the Pfizer and the Moderna, there wasn’t a lot of variants going around the places where the vaccines were studied,” says Logan Hudson, Public Health Division Administrator for the South Central Public Health District.
While some of the variants may be more severe in illness, there are still similarities to the original COVID strain.
“These mutations, though they change some versions of the protein structure, in general, the virus is still essentially largely the same," says Dr. Joshua Kern, St. Luke's Magic Valley Chief Medical Officer.
Many health officials remain confident that those who get vaccinated will be protected from the variants currently present in the U.S.
“Even if you were to get an illness from one of the variants, if you had the vaccine, you would tend to have less severe illness and again, right now, all indications seem to be that the vaccines are protective against the variants,” said Kern.
Several companies are already working on producing boosters and other vaccines in the event of a worst-case scenario.
“They already have that in the wing to be able to come to market even more quickly than this time around if they found a variant that the vaccines didn’t give immunity to,” said Kern.
Other studies still need to be conducted about the current vaccines, primarily their lifespan and longevity and how long they protect people from COVID.
Health officials remained concerned about the long-term complications from the virus itself, especially if a large portion of the population choose not to get vaccinated.
“What we don’t want to have happen is a second round of one of these variants taking hold in our community and having to deal with this all over again," said Kern.