New COVID-19 Variant Identified in New York

February 28, 2021
John Parkinson

The variant, B.1.526, was first found in samples dating back to November.

In recent days a new COVID-19 variant first identified in New York had been reported. The variant, B.1.526, was found in samples dating back to last November.

The discovery was reported on Medrxiv.

Investigators are reporting the variant has been seen throughout New York City, has been found in older people, and has seen more frequently hospitalized patients.

“We observed a steady increase in the detection rate from late December to mid-February, with an alarming rise to 12.3% in the past two weeks,” the investigators wrote. “Whole genome sequencing further demonstrated that most of our E484K isolates (n=49/65) fell within a single lineage: NextStrain clade 20C or Pangolin lineage B.1.526.”

According to LiveScience, there are 2 mutations that could be problematic and have some in the medical community concerned. “One branch has a mutation called E484K, which has also been seen in other coronavirus variants, including those identified in South Africa and Brazil. This mutation may reduce the ability of certain antibodies to neutralize, or inactivate, the virus, and may help the coronavirus partially evade COVID-19 vaccines,” the website reported.

It now appears it's a race between the emerging variants and getting people vaccinated more quickly.

“Again, that’s the reason why keep doing the public health measures and get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can,” Anthony Fauci, MD, a medical advisor to the Biden Administration, who was interviewed on CNN late last week. “Everything you throw at us about a mutant is going to be countered by getting people vaccinated.”

With the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine yesterday, this marks the third vaccine to achieve an EUA in the United States, and will help with the needed supplies for mass vaccination.