The WHO this week said, it's closely paying attention to three so-called "Variants of Concern" those first detected in the UK, South Africa,…and Brazil.
All three have gone through a mutation called "N501Y" in their spike proteins, which helps the virus spread more easily.
And the South African and Brazilian variants,… have acquired another mutation called "E484K" which may help the virus evade antibodies.
The WHO defines Variants of Concern as those that are more contagious, more deadly,… or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.
Another category called "Variants of Interest", requires a lower threshold for determination.
There are 7 variants in this groupand the double-mutant variant, first found in India,..has been classified here as the WHO is still gathering information on it.
"Having two of these mutations, which have been seen in other variants around the world, are concerning because there's a similarity in these mutations that confer increased transmissibility, for example, and some of these mutations also result in reduced neutralization, which may have an impact on our countermeasures, including the vaccines."
Amid growing fears of these variants,.some real-world studies give us hope.
Most vaccines have been found to be effective against the UK variant.
Also in Qatar, Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was found to be up to 75 percent effective in preventing infection from the South African variant.
It also showed 97.4 percent effectiveness at preventing severe illnesses or fatalities.
"Vaccines might only offer partial protection from infections,.. but they promise protection from severe cases and deaths. That's why we need to get a vaccine."
Vaccine maker Moderna says its booster shot, which will be ready this autumn, also enhances immunity against the South African,and Brazilian variants.
Experts largely acknowledge the positive momentum,… but still stress that the long-term effect of vaccines on large communities remains to be seen.
Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang News.