On February 17, 2021, the CDC published two reports with additional findings on the two most prominent COVID-19 variants in the United States.
The first report tracks the first identified cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Minnesota in December 2020 and January 2021. During the February 8 White House COVID-19 Response Team press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, emphasized that the B.1.1.7 variant is likely to become dominant in the United States by the end of March. Additionally, he stated that the two mRNA vaccines are quite effective against the B.1.1.7 lineage.
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The second report tracks efforts to detect the B.1.351 variant in Zambia in December 2020. The report states, “[t]he B.1.351 variant might be associated with higher viral loads and contains another spike protein mutation (E484K) that might hinder antibody binding, which could blunt naturally developed immunity or reduce vaccine efficacy.” Therefore, early detection efforts will be critical for effective vaccination programs.
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According to the CDC, 1277 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant and 19 cases of the B.1.351 variant have been reported in the United States as of February 16. Daily updates can be found here. On February 17, the White House announced that the CDC will invest nearly $200 million in genome sequencing to identify, track, and mitigate emerging strains of COVID-19.
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