Illustration: Needle in COVID molecule

The appearance of new COVID-19 variants is not unique — variants occur in all viruses over time. And the scientists studying the disease and developing COVID vaccines always anticipated that new strains would continue to evolve.

Staying up to date with COVID vaccines remains our best defense against all the strains of the disease, as the vaccines significantly reduce the severity of infection.

Still deciding about the vaccine or know someone who is? See these reasons to get the vaccine.

What Is a Variant Virus?

A variant occurs when the virus mutates, or changes, as it replicates and creates a slightly different version of itself. Sometimes, these variant strains just disappear; these are the viruses that don't make the news and scientists are not worried about them.

Occasionally, a strain becomes a "variant of concern" when it is able to survive better than the original virus or previous variants of concern.

They can become more easily passed from one person to another than the original strain or variants. They could also become more or less likely to cause serious illness.

Do the Vaccines and Boosters Work Against the New Strains?

The simple answer is yes.

There is no evidence to suggest that these or any other variants of the COVID-19 virus are completely resistant to the current vaccines. Vaccination and booster doses reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 infection.

Boosters are now being designed to target the latest variants.

The COVID vaccines are highly effective.

The effectiveness of the current COVID vaccines is quite high. In fact, it is much higher than some other vaccines we commonly receive. As a reminder, the annual flu vaccine has an effectiveness around 40-60 percent from year to year.

The current vaccines cause a powerful immune response that makes them highly protective, even if there is a drop in antibody strength. Antibodies are not the only part of the vaccines that makes them work. There are also T cells and memory B cells and other types of antibodies.

COVID boosters increase immune response.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, data from clinical trials showed that a booster shot increased the body's immune response. With an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against getting infected with COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Clinical trials also showed that a booster shot helped prevent COVID cases in which symptoms developed.

The vaccines prevent hospitalization and death.

All of the current vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death.

This is a critical point. Not only will the vaccine save lives, it will help relieve the strain on healthcare systems across the country

The vaccines help stop new variants.

As we vaccinate and boost as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, we can help stop the spread of the coronavirus. A decrease in transmission of the virus means fewer opportunities for it to mutate, which can help prevent the emergence of any other variants.

The vaccines can be updated to be more effective.

Research continues on all the COVID-19 vaccines. If necessary, future vaccines may need to be tweaked, similar to the flu vaccine every year. All vaccine manufacturers are continuing to study the effectiveness of the vaccines and are already looking at what a booster might look like in the future.

Updated 10/7/2022

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