St. Joseph County Health Officials still confident in vaccines against COVID-19 Variants
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The British B117 variant of COVID-19 has now been identified in three Michiana Counties: Elkhart, St. Joseph and Berrien Counties. The variant being in Indiana left some health officials thinking it was why the state saw its recent streak of days with COVID-19 case counts declining snapped. St. Joseph County health officials said nothing has to change with the pandemic recovery effort. The new variant just emphasizes the need to not let our guard down.
"I think we're right on the cusp," St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said. "We have a lot of reasons to be really optimistic. The vaccine rollout really has gone very well. There is at least some data to show that all of the currently authorized vaccines have at least some efficacy against the variants that have been identified especially the B-117 variant."
Medical Director for the South Bend Clinic's Center for Research Dr. James Harris has been overseeing clinical trials for the new Johnson and Johnson Vaccine. He said the variant makes projection of the vaccine a little more uncertain, but it does not put it in doubt.
"We're really not sure how well they work," Dr. Harris said. "Time will tell, but our best guess is that all the vaccines work against it, and the best thing we can do is to get the vaccine we have right now."
Dr. Harris said the best way to combat the new variants, which have popped up in different areas around the world: Britain, China (the original and most prevalent), South Africa and Brazil is to focus on the one we know best.
"We know that the vaccines, while they may not be as effective as they may have been otherwise, there's still activity," Harris said. "So, the best way to deal with the COVID virus right now is to get the vaccine and stop it cold. Stop it everywhere. Stop it from spreading because where there's COVID, there’s variants."
Dr. Fox said the B117 variant being in Michiana meant people must continue to keep their guard up.
"Everyone should recognize that the report of the variant is ancient history," Fox said. "I have to assume that it's far more prevalent in St. Joseph County than we even know."
Dr. Fox said there's still plenty of reasons to be optimistic because of the new variants, all three vaccines are most effective against the B117 variant, the only new variant found in Michiana so far.