Dr. Ritu Chandra speaks on new COVID-19 variant C.1.2

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PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL)- A new COVID-19 strain was found in South Africa and it has quickly spread to other parts of the world.

According to Reuters, the new variant C.1.2 was discovered in South Africa in May 2021. Since then the new variant has made its way to several other countries. The new variant has been found in England, New Zealand, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Portugal and Switzerland. Pediatrician and founder of Preferred Medical Group Dr. Ritu Chanda said it’s only a matter of time before the variant comes to the United States.

“So this time it’s not been identified in the United States but we’re talking about it because there’s always a good possibility that it will come because travel is so rapid in today’s age. You know people jump on a plane and they could travel from place to place and it would spread very rapidly,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra told News 3 the virus is rapidly changing all the time.

“This variant so far is very important to us because there have been many, many changes in the spike protein of the Corona Virus. There have been deletions and substitutions, so there are two things that we are really concerned about from a public health standpoint,” Dr. Chandra said.

According to Dr. Chandra, the concern for this new variant is that it could possibly be more transmittable than the Delta variant. Another concern health officials have is if the changes in the spike proteins will cause the virus to become immune to the vaccines that are available.

“That’s called immune invasion, which means the vaccine was originally built to attack the spike protein. If there are mutations in the spike protein then the vaccine’s original recipe may not be as effective and then the virus is getting the better of us,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra said there’s no exact amount of time it would take for C.1.2 to come to the United States, but all it takes is one infected person traveling from one of the seven countries to bring the virus here.

“No one can tell, it might be four passengers and a family tomorrow who board a plane from South Africa to the U.S. and then it starts spreading but we can’t tell for sure. It’s concerning because it was first discovered in South Africa in May of this year and within a span of three to four months it’s already in seven different countries, so it’s spreading for sure,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra said she’s unsure of how C.1.2 would affect Alabama and more specifically Phenix City since the vaccination rate is low.

“There is no playbook for Coronavirus, it is really unfolding live in front of all of us and nobody would have predicted when it started that we would still be talking about it in September of 21. But we have a very big problem in our area because people are being so hesitant about taking the vaccine and at this point, the prevalence is so high that either you take the vaccine or you’re going to catch the infection,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra said the best way to stop COVID-19 would be another lockdown and pumping vaccines into arms, but that’s not realistically possible.

“In an ideal world, you’re right if we put everybody on lockdown then the virus cannot spread. From a realistic standpoint that would also shut down the economy, it would shut down schools. So it doesn’t happen, in India, they tried the lockdown very seriously, nationwide, for several weeks. During the time of the lockdown, the transmission was very limited, but the moment people came off of the lockdown and resumed their activities and daily living, the transmission spread,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra told News 3 that she wishes she had an answer as to when COVID-19 will end.

“I wish I had the crystal ball and tell you the answer but we really don’t know. There’s also a possibility that with the mutations sometimes the virus can do a mutation that’s not beneficial to its self and it can die out. With the number of variations going on right now, there is a pretty good chance that every year there’s going to be a new COVID-19 vaccine coming out to tackle the new prevailing variant,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra is pleading with the public to get the vaccine.

“My plea to people is I really sincerely wish more people would get vaccinated and that is the best strategy to help us eliminate this virus,” Dr. Chanadra said.

She said the United States is lucky to have such a huge supply of the vaccine.

“The United States is very fortunate that we have this immense supply of the vaccine, in other parts of the world people are not as fortunate. They don’t have access to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but here the health department is giving it out, the pharmacies are giving them out, but some of them are just so resistant,” Dr. Chandra said.

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