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VERIFY: Which COVID-19 variants should you be worried about?

As the pandemic wears on the coronavirus continues to mutate. Our experts say the key to stopping mutation is vaccination.

WASHINGTON — We are well over a year into the pandemic and by now, you have heard that the virus has been mutating. These mutations can allow the virus to spread faster or resist immunization and more keep popping up.

Question:

In the United States, what are the main variants of the virus that cause COVID-19?

Answer:

There are several that draw concern from medical professionals.

Our Sources:

Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a microbiologist from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert from Vanderbilt University. The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention.

What We Found:

“Variants happen with viruses all the time,” Dr. Pekosz said.

“The trick is to distinguish variants that really have no great meaning or implication from variants of interest,” Dr. Schaffner said.

Our experts said as viruses move through a population, variants can naturally occur. The more the virus spreads, the more likely it will mutate.

RELATED: VERIFY: Here's how much immunity you have, if you've already had COVID-19

Both experts explained those coronavirus variants of interest break into two categories. The first is mutations that allow the virus to spread more easily. The variant first discovered in the United Kingdom falls in this category.

RELATED: UK variant hunters lead global race to stay ahead of COVID-19

The second category is mutations that may resist immunity. This is where the bulk of the other variants fall. This includes mutations discovered in New York and California. Along with the mutation first discovered in Brazil.

Then, there is the variant first identified in South Africa, which falls into both categories.

“It can do both and so therefore that is telling us that the virus is mutating even more effectively than we thought it could before,” Dr. Pekosz said. “Those are the particular viruses that we want to keep an eye on.”

Both of our experts said it is important to note, even if the variants show some resistance to the vaccines, vaccines are still highly effective.

“It’s clear that the vaccine is protecting nearly 100% from hospitalizations and deaths even with these variants,” Dr. Pekosz said.

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