Epidemiologists told NBC 7 on Thursday that vaccines will play a pivotal role in fighting the new Brazilian strain that was recently detected in San Diego, as well as the pandemic itself.
So far, there have only been two confirmed cases of the P.1 variant in San Diego County -- a fact that officials announced Wednesday -- but UC San Diego's chief of infectious disease and global public health is still concerned.
Helping in the fight: Starting next week, Californians who are 50 and older will be eligible for vaccines starting April 1. Then, by April 15, eligibility expands to those 16 and older.
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“The more vaccine we have out there in the public, the less likely that variant can get through our population. And the less likely it is to evolve," Dr. Davey Smith told NBC 7. "What we see in the lab, at least, is not that the vaccines don't completely work, they just don’t work as well as they did for the original strain."
Reinfections and breakthrough cases, when a vaccinated person contracts the virus, have been reported as well.
Scientists have it all under a microscope, figuring out just how resistant the Brazilian strain is to the three available vaccines, but real-world studies take time.
At this point, scientists also don’t know how the Brazilian variant affects the rates of hospitalization or deaths. While scientists do their jobs, Smith said so should the public: Getting vaccinated.
Chula Vista resident Cesar Flores is fully vaccinated. He told NBC7 he was one of the first San Diego residents to join the Moderna trials but ended up receiving the placebo.
Flores eventually went on to get the Pfizer vaccine. He said he is also well aware of the variants and believes scientists are working it out.
“Even though these new variants are popping up, I still feel pretty comfortable," said Flores. "So going forward, I think it’ll be even quicker for Moderna, for Pfizer, for Johnson & Johnson to develop vaccines that will be just as effective against these new strains."
The strains, like all viruses, are constantly figuring out how to poke holes through our immune response armor, vaccinated or not.
"The more time that it has replicating in the population, the more chances of these variants are popping up,” Smith said.