WPU School of Professional Studies community,
We hope that you find the opportunity to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. There are lots of activities and ways to get involved across campus and on Thursday we will celebrate Founders Day of Giving (I think there are cupcakes!).
While the COVID case counts continue to drop and more vaccinations are being administered, we appreciate your continued efforts to wear a mask properly (covering the mouth and nose), practice social distancing and wash your hands. We all want to continue to enjoy the on-campus experiences this semester.
COVID Corner with Dr. Scott, WPU University Physician
There have been many questions and concerns about the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Let’s try to address a few of those:
What are variants and why do they matter?
Variants of viruses occur when there is a mutation to the virus’s genes. All viruses mutate over time, so these variants are predictable and inevitable. The flu virus, for example, mutates constantly, requiring a new vaccine every year. In the case of coronavirus, these mutations alter the viral surface, particularly the spike protein, which is the target of current vaccines. A change in the spike protein may make the virus less recognizable to antibodies primed by previous infections or vaccination.
What does this mean?
Although there is no evidence that these mutations or variants have made COVID-19 infections more severe, in some cases (particularly the variants from South Africa [B.1.351] and UK [B.1.1.7]), they have made the virus more contagious, causing it to spread more quickly from person to person.
Do current vaccines protect against variants?
The vaccines currently being used in the US (Pfizer, Moderna, and now Johnson & Johnson) appear to have a less intense response to B.1.351 and some of the other variants, but are still protective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (not in use in the US) provides “minimal” protection against B.1.351 infection, but appears to limit disease severity to “mild or moderate.”
So what’s the bottom line?
It’s likely that booster vaccine doses will be required to address variants. Only time and research will tell us how often that will need to happen.
Get the vaccine as soon as it’s available! (and that absolutely, positively includes the J&J vaccine.) Current vaccines offer significant protection against contracting infection. If 70% of us are vaccinated, (that darn Herd Immunity concept again!) a variant wouldn’t have a sizeable enough susceptible population to even get a pandemic started.
Continue to follow CDC guidelines and watch your distance, wash your hands, and wear your masks. Now is not the time to let our guard down! Stay safe!!
Ask the Expert: Submit your COVID related health questions to Dr. Scott and questions will be answered in future communications. SUBMIT YOUR QUESTIONS
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: How are YOU taking care of yourself each day?
Remember to take time to relax, recharge and if you need to speak with someone, contact The Counseling Center @ Counseling@peace.edu to get more information or to set up an appointment.
We will continue to send out weekly emails to include updates and highlights of timely information to ensure a successful semester. These communications will continue to be added to covid.peace.edu/communications