Coronavirus COVID-19 computer-generated image. Credit: Getty Images
More COVID-19 mutations are emerging globally including the so-called Mu variant, raising concerns from state lawmakers about whether the strain is resistant to current vaccines used to provide protection against the virus.
The World Health Organization has designated the Mu variant as a “variant of interest” and cited that the mutation may potentially reduce vaccine effectiveness. The variant emerged in Colombia in January and is also known as B.1.621, according to WHO’s website.
As of now, the MU variant hasn’t spread quickly but a few cases have been identified in the United States, AP News reported.
In Tuesday’s virtual discussion hosted by the Florida Senate Democrats, State Sen. Lori Berman engaged a doctor in Florida about more contagious variants, such as the Mu and Delta variants.
“We are starting to hear about something called a Mu variant, which they are worrying about it not being responsive to the vaccine,” said Berman, a Democrat representing part of Palm Beach County.
In a report released in late August, WHO cited “preliminary data” that show the current vaccines may not provide a high level of protection against the Mu variant “but this needs to be confirmed by further studies.”
Dr. Nicole Iovine, chief epidemiologist for the UF College of Medicine and Shand’s Hospital System, said during the discussion on Facebook that she’s not surprised about reports about the emergence of new COVID strains.
“All living things will mutate their genetic material… So, it was entirely expected that variants of the SARS virus (COVID-19) that causes COVID will emerge,” Iovine said. “What’s unfortunate is that some of the variants have caused more health problems.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Lauren Book, Democratic leader for the Senate who represents part of Broward County, has been leading a series of virtual discussions on Facebook regarding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in Florida.
The panel also included State Sen. Bobby Powell; Leader Pro Tempore and a Democrat representing part of Palm Beach, Berman; State Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat representing Osceola County and part of Orange County, and health care workers.
Lawmakers pointed to hospitalizations due to past surges in cases and increasing vaccines in communities of color across the state.
“With the recent increase in COVID-19 transmission rates, I am concerned with the lack of available testing and vaccination sites available to the public, especially for minority and Hispanic communities in Osceola County,” Torres said.
Florida’s vaccination rate is 55.2 percent according to CDC data, ranking 21st of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Florida’s rate — for fully vaccinated residents — is slightly higher than the national average of 53.9 percent, though several states have higher rates than Florida.
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