By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is increasing concern over a number of new strains of coronavirus and if the available vaccines are effective against them.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez has the answers.

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How worried should we be about COVID-19 variants, or mutations?

A tweet over the weekend from Former CDC Commissioner Dr. Tom Frieden sparked concerns. It said, “Covid is evolving in weeks and months the way flu evolves in years. Ominous.”

While that sounds scary coming from a public health expert, there is considerable disagreement over the science behind that tweet.

The coronavirus does mutate. All viruses do. But while COVID “evolves,” which is not exactly the same as mutating, there are good biological reasons why it does not do so as fast as the flu.

That said, there are variants popping up all over the globe: U.K., South Africa and even California. Again, that’s expected, especially now that U.S. labs are beginning to sequence the genetics of many more virus samples.

COVID VACCINE

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Most of the variants will not be resistant to the present vaccines.

In fact, Moderna just announced that it’s vaccine, which is virtually the same as the Pfizer vaccine, is expected to be protective against the emerging strains detected to date – just as effective against the U.K. strain and effective enough against the South Africa strain to provide protection.

Do you have a COVID vaccine question for Dr. Max? Let us know!

Are the new strains more deadly?

While the new strains appear to be more infectious – that’s why the U.K. strain is expected to be the predominant strain in the U.S. in a couple months – it is not yet clear whether they are more deadly. The data is still being analyzed.

We also don’t know if the so-called California strain is the cause of the spike in that state or whether it may just be that labs are finding it because they are starting to sequence more virus samples.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Even though the present vaccines appear to be protective, Moderna has also announced that it is beginning tests using a third booster dose to see if that increases new strain protection.

It is also developing a vaccine specifically against the South Africa strain.

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Dr. Max Gomez