With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting all of our lives, the increasing availability of vaccines for the virus has become a much needed relief, with many Americans having already received it by now. While this news is encouraging, many more face challenges in accessing vaccinations. On top of this, there have been two unique strains of the virus identified, the B.1.1.7 strain from the United Kingdom and the B.18.104.22.168 strain from South Africa.
In the initial months of the pandemic, it was noted–almost with surprise–that COVID-19 did not seem to be mutating quickly, at only half the rate of mutation acquisition in other flu strains. However, these new mutations appear to have acquired many of their new changes very suddenly, with it being theorized that many mutations could have occurred in a single patient that had a prolonged exposure of the virus in their body.
Generally, mutations don’t make a virus more hazardous, though some studies have found that these newer strains, particularly the UK Strain, have an increased rate of transmission. Granted, some of these studies require a greater sampling size and additional review before becoming more validated, but the news provided so far on them hasn’t been great.
Vaccines are still strongly encouraged. Current vaccines could be altered to combat the new strains in a matter of weeks. Along with protection from the original COVID-19 strain, the current vaccines still provide protection against the newer strains.
I personally have signed up to be vaccinated, though I am still waiting to receive an appointment. Many others in the Stockton community have received or also signed up to be vaccinated.
Julianne Williams, who is a recent Stockton graduate, spoke of her experiences graduating in a COVID semester and what it’s been like in the time since she’s graduated. “I think there are lots of people who feel a sense of accomplishment or a sense of relief when finishing their degrees- college or in any other stage of life,” said Williams. “Graduating when COVID-19 made its way in our lives as a global pandemic, was not what I or any other person would have anticipated but at least it was memorable albeit in a different sense.”
Williams shares what is a common sentiment among the Stockton community. Some of my friends who received it told me that their appointments went well. Of course, while there has been some better news with the vaccines, it does not change the fact that this is still a very atypical college semester, with myself and many others graduating under these challenging times.