Cross MU, Lambda and R.1 Off the Variants to Worry About List, But More are Coming, Likely in October
I have predicted in the past six weeks that one of the variants (MU, R.1 or Lambda) or another still unknown variant, will cause a similar wave of infections that Delta has caused in the United States.
It is likely, in fact, that the U.S. will likely endure four more Delta-like variants before this pandemic will end.
Roughly speaking, one this year (likely soon, before Halloween) and one early in 2022 (during the winter), another in the late fall of 2022, and one in the depth of winter or early spring of 2023.
Just a guess, and thankfully, so far, other than Delta, there have been no new variants that are resistant to the vaccine or are as contagious as Delta.
Likely, the most reasonable explanation for no other variant taking hold in the United States is the dominant, on-going King-of-the-Hill status of Delta.
But eventually, Delta will recede, and another variant will fill the vacuum, so to speak.
There are three main factors why these new variants will cause less havoc than Delta.
First, Moderna (and presumably others like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer) can tailor a new booster shot to a new variant in 42 days due to its mRNA technology, and a vaccine batch for a new variant can be manufactured in about five days.
Second, there is decidedly (finally) a consensus against fear and loathing and lockdowns by the majority of Americans — see the Tampa Bay vs. New England Monday Night Football game in Boston, packed to the gills with maskless fans.
And third, companies like Moderna are constantly testing every Covid variant to see if it is the one they need to begin making a booster vaccine to counter. Moderna has six different boosters in development now, including one for the Delta variant. These vaccines are called “multi-variant” or “multivalent” vaccines that will be designed to work against multiple variants but also protect against where these variants will evolve.
This means the next booster vaccine shot will be designed to work against the prevailing variant, and we will not be reacting late and in a completely de novo situation.
And while you hear constantly about the limits of natural immunity, Moderna says their vaccine immunity begins to drop after six months, and that now is time to begin thinking about a booster shot, with about half the dose as the first two shots.
But ultimately, when these new variants begin to infect more Americans, creating the next wave of infections, hospitalizations, and death, there will be a need for a new vaccine that targets just these variants.
And as always, natural immunity and vaccines will be the drivers of immunity to these new variants.
I hope I am wrong about both the existence of the next variant and the number of them I expect will break through the vaccinations to cause infection.
It seems very unlikely that Delta will be the first and last variant to infect millions in spite of a vaccine.