Many questions are being raised about new COVID-19 variants of concern (VOCs) which are said to be more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, and how we can protect ourselves from them. 

Viruses copy themselves and mutate into one or more variants with some such as the UK, South African, and Brazil VOCs, having higher chances of latching themselves to their hosts more easily. This development has alarmed more health officials who are now encouraging stricter implementations of mask wearing across the country. 

Continuous studies on vaccine protection

While health experts have already proven that available COVID-19 vaccines do provide a certain level of protection against new VOCs, there are still some challenges on up to what extent the vaccines can protect individuals against the new variants.  

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the available vaccines still elicit a broad immune response that won’t make them ineffective against the new variants. At the same time, new research and tests are still being conducted if changes in vaccine compositions are necessary to reinforce each one’s defense properties. 

Concerned individuals may check the WHO’s Disease Outbreak News page for updates and developments concerning the said study.    

How you can protect yourself from the new VOCs

The WHO has released a statement that encourages everyone to continue practicing the three main defenses against COVID-19 which are: wear high-grade masks, practice physical distancing, and the regular washing of hands. 

According to WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the new VOCs all contain the N501Y mutation which heightens transmissibility and is likely to result in more combined mutations that can be more dangerous. 

These new coronavirus developments have prompted the federal government to call for wider production of American-made N95 and KN95 respirators to cater to both the needs of healthcare facilities and the general public. 

N95 respirators that are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which can block floating harmful aerosol particles in the air by 95%, were initially reserved for healthcare workers in the country due to the lack of supply. With the Biden administration issuing an executive order to increase the production of American-made N95 and KN95 respirators, as well as more personal protective equipment (PPE), the general public is now urged to purchase and use such medical-grade masks for higher protection against the VOCs.