Recent studies are showing that the immune response from the COVID-19 vaccine is still effective against the variants; however, variants are spreading “rapidly” amongst unvaccinated people, health officials say.
Kern Public Health confirmed Monday a total of three COVID-19 cases of the Delta variant, 55 cases of the Alpha variant, and three cases of the Beta variant in Kern. All three of these variants have been classified as variants of concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The longer people go without getting vaccinated, the less likely vaccines will remain effective against further mutations of the virus,” said Michelle Corson, the spokeswoman for the Kern County Public Health Department.
The vaccination rate in Kern County remains one of the lowest in the state. As of Sunday, just 40.7 percent of Kern’s eligible population — those 12 and older — have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Kern Public Health. Another 51,216 people have one-dose of their two-dose series, meaning 47.5 percent of Kern’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated.
The United Kingdom is estimating that the Delta variant is 35-60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was already 43-90 percent more transmissible than the original SARS CoV-2 virus.
Other variants of concern include the Beta and Gamma variants. Beta variants are associated with approximately 50 percent increased transmission and may have a moderately decreased response to antibody treatments, and the Gamma variants may also have a moderately decreased response to some antibody treatments, according to the California Department of Public Health. There are no Gamma cases in Kern.
“Variants serve as an important reminder that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Corson. “We must continue to practice healthy behaviors, including getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to ensure you have as much protection as possible.”
Variants come about as the virus changes through mutations. Variants of concern are defined by evidence of any of the following: an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
“These factors can increase the risk of new infections and re-infections, which could potentially lead to another surge in cases, so we take the identification of any variants of concern in our community very seriously,” said Corson.
In the State of California, Delta variant cases make up 29.6 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases, while the Alpha variant makes up 51.8 percent of cases in the state, according to the CDC.
As of July 3, the Delta variant accounted for 51.7 percent of new COVID-19 cases that had been genetically sequenced in the U.S. Two weeks earlier, on June 19, the variant accounted for just more than 30 percent of new cases.
Those interested in becoming vaccinated can find a vaccine location here.