COVID-19 Variants On The Rise, But Full Vaccination Can Help Stop Spread

May 5, 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 69% of COVID-19 infections in Oklahoma's region are now caused by variant B117. More variants are on the rise, as well.

"We have not identified any new variants...but variants of interest have grown considerably," said Dr. Jennifer Clark of Oklahoma State University's Project ECHO.   

Viruses change constantly through mutation, and a variant has one or more mutations that differentiate it from other variants. There are three classifications for variants: variants of interest, variants of concern, and variants of high consequence.

While there are no variants of high consequence (meaning vaccine resistant) in circulation, Oklahoma State Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gitanjali Pai says there is evidence completing a full vaccine cycle can protect against variants.

"There was improved neutralization of both B117 and B135 variants after the second dose, whereas there was low neutralization seen after just the first dose," said Pai, citing a meeting with CDC officials over the past month.

Rise of variants over time in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana
Credit CDC

92% of Americans seeking the vaccine have followed dosing guidelines, while 8% haven't returned for a second shot. How soon a person should get a second dose depends on the vaccine they receive. For Pfizer, it's 21 days. For Moderna, it's 28. 

Oklahoma is adding 14 days to those numbers before it counts people late. 

"It's important to note how we are measuring somebody that is late for that second dose, or we assume they are not going to get their second dose. We look at a 14 day window past when that dose was due," said Keith Reed, Deputy Commissioner for OSDH.

Oklahoma is also following the national trend in terms of people failing to return for a second dose. 

"The latest numbers that I looked at had us right at 8%. That's very similar to what we're seeing on the national stage," said Reed.