Healthbeat: Who is to blame for COVID-19 mutations?


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — During the 2020 fight against COVID-19 last year, something emerged in the fall that hadn’t been seen previously during the pandemic. It was a variant of novel coronavirus. But how did it happen?

Since then, we’ve seen three other variants. An Eyewitness News viewer emailed us about who is to blame for the virus mutations. And tonight, we have an answer.

Up until Thursday morning, Don Buckley of Nuangola was unvaccinated against COVID-19 even though vaccine opportunities were plentiful.

When asked, “so you were a little hesitant?” Buckley says, “A little bit. And right now I’m getting a little scared with the delta variant to be honest with you.”

But who is to blame is what a viewer named Patrick wants to know?

We posed the question to Lehigh Valley Health Network physician Joseph Yozviak.

“It’s a great question so the first thing I’m going to do is really correct the question. So viruses generally do not mutate because of the presence of a vaccine. Viruses just mutate,” Dr. Yozviak explained.

That is something, Dr. Yozviak says, happens as more and more people become infected.

“So as viruses multiply, viruses make mistakes which can lead to mutations, some of which may lead to more infectious variants, some of which may lead to more deadly variants but we haven’t seen that with the delta variant,” he told us.

What we have seen with the delta variant is a much more infectious virus spreading throughout the community, the commonwealth, and more than 130 other countries. Dr. Yozviak says the medical solution is for more unvaccinated people to get the shot.

“Since vaccinated individuals mount an immune response, you are not going to have as much viral replication and it’s unlikely to see as many variants emerge as a result of those interventions with vaccine,” Dr. Yozviak said.

Dr. Yozviak says until we can reach herd immunity, we are going to see more mutations, more variants and more strains occur, and will occur much more often in unvaccinated individuals.

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