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Healthbeat: COVID-19 variant highlights importance of vaccinations

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — More of us are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but infections of the virus are stubbornly increasing. Much of the country has seen increasing infections in recent days, but the CDC is not blaming it on any lack of vaccine effectiveness.

Mutated forms of the virus are proving to be even more contagious than the original strain to hit the U.S. last year. Eyewitness News spoke with a local infectious disease specialist about the problem and why now is the time to act.

As COVID-19 spread across the globe the past year, variants of the virus began to emerge. Among them, the B117 COVID variant or what many of us know as the UK variant.

“Like most variants of communicable diseases, it did make its way to the United States, and it now seems to be the predominant form of the SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 infection that’s circulating in the United States,” said Dr. Alison Brodginski, director of infectious diseases, Geisinger Northeast.

Dr. Brodginski says what makes this variant so contagious has to do with how your body is affected by spiked proteins.

“So that’s the little area of the virus that attaches to our respiratory tract. So, when we see mutations in the area of attachment or how we become infected, you know, it certainly can lead to increase in proactivity which in the B117 case, it does appear to be more contagious,” Dr. Brodginski said.

Brodginski says the key to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants is being proactive and getting vaccinated which now more than half of adults in the U.S. have done.

“So, if the virus has nowhere to go, it doesn’t have the ability to replicate and cause more mutations,” Dr. Brodginski said.

While data is still being collected on the effectiveness of the existing COVID vaccines against variants, Dr. Brodginski says one thing appears to be clear: the vaccine is still your best shot to protect yourself from such an invasive virus.

“So the vaccine is doing exactly still what it’s supposed to do in terms of if someone comes into contact with this variant and they are immunized they’re not getting seriously ill, they’re not coming into the hospital, and obviously our mortality rate is much, much lower,” Dr. Brodginski said.

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