Doctors in Utah keep watch for new COVID-19 variants from other parts of the world

Apr 23, 2021, 7:21 PM
COVID-19 in Utah...
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, file)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, file)

SALT LAKE CITY – Health officials say more than two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Utah, although the number of people looking to get a vaccine has gone down.  Doctors are hoping the pause of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine doesn’t deter people from getting one, since the state is still a long way from herd immunity.

In some parts of the state, the number of new daily cases appears to be on the rise.  However, Dr. Eddie Stenehjen with Intermountain Healthcare says it is only a very slight rise with positivity rates continuing to fall, so he believes the cases are still plateauing. 

Over half of the new cases in Utah are variants of the original COVID-19 virus, and Stenehjem says a large number of those are from the California variant.  There is some good news about those viruses.

“If you get vaccinated, you are protected against those variants,” he says.

Stenehjem says there are other variants they’re keeping a close eye on.  For instance, one out of New York isn’t getting a lot of media attention.  However, he’s most concerned about what’s happening in India.  The country had over 300,000 new cases in just one day this week.

“I’m sure we’re going to see a variant coming out of India because of the vast amount of transmission there,” according to Stenehjem.

He says that high amount of viral spread within a very densely populated area an extremely dangerous mix.

“That is also a breeding ground for a variant.  When you have that much viral transmission, those are just so many opportunities for that virus to develop a mutation,” says Stenehjem.

He believes it will be very hard to convince someone who opposes the vaccine to change their mind.  However, he says many people who are hesitating to get one may be convinced to book an appointment if their loved ones speak to them about the importance of getting vaccinated.  Stenehjem says if only 45 percent of the population gets the vaccine, then 55 percent can be possible carriers.

He says, “I’m afraid if we don’t get to that ‘herd immunity’ and we go back to the way we were doing things, we’re going to start seeing a spike.”


Other Reading:

US lifts pause, allowing J&J COVID-19 vaccinations to resume

Church missionaries encouraged to get COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine side effects after COVID-19 shot are common but mostly mild

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Doctors in Utah keep watch for new COVID-19 variants from other parts of the world