Variants, Travel Advice and “Long Haulers”
By Allison Kozicharow; Edited by Jessie Crowdy
WiRED International’s Vaccinator Training Program is firing up in Kenya and Peru, and articles will appear soon chronicling its progress. In the meantime, here are some recent updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush to get populations vaccinated as cases rise worldwide.
Scientists expect viruses to keep mutating; sometimes they emerge and disappear and sometimes they emerge and persist. Multiple COVID-19 variants are circulating globally, and CDC is monitoring these variants per the following classifications:
- Variant of interest
- Variant of concern
- Variant of high consequence
The current identified variants seem to spread easily and quickly, which may lead to an increase in cases and hospitalizations, strain healthcare services and result in more deaths. According to CDC, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines in the U.S. recognize these variants. Further investigation is ongoing.
For now and the foreseeable future, the medical experts advise adherence to public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene and isolation and quarantine. These health measures are vital to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.
CDC has issued new recommendations based on the latest evidence and science to state that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves. Traveling is safe as long as passengers maintain precautions — wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, social distancing and washing hands frequently. While this is good news, 85% of shots that have been administered around the world have gone to people in high-and upper-middle income countries, while only 0.1% of doses have been given in low-income countries.
Can COVID-19 Long Haulers Benefit from Vaccination?
“Long haulers” suffering from “long COVID” comprise a group of people who got COVID-19, but months later still experience symptoms such as breathlessness, irregular and rapid heartbeat, brain fog, diarrhea and unusual rashes — in addition to crippling fatigue. Anecdotal evidence is emerging that some long haulers are finding relief and even complete recovery after getting vaccinated. Theories abound and studies are just beginning, so scientific results are still far away. The hope is that, in addition to helping people recover, the research will reveal valuable information about the virus itself.