Health leaders react to COVID variant in Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – Governor Andy Beshear confirmed there have been two reported cases of a new COVID strain in Kentucky.

But scientists are already adjusting vaccines to protect against any new strains.

The commonwealth is facing a new foe– a COVID strain from across the pond. It’s known as B.1.1.7, prevalent in the United Kingdom, and has officially made its way to Kentucky. But it hasn’t caught healthcare workers by surprise.

“The good news is actually Moderna has already tested the UK strain and found that they are effective against that strain. The only one they haven’t found any diminished response is actually the South African strain,” Emergency Physician Dr. Ryan Stanton said.

Dr. Stanton says even though the strains have slight differences, for the most part, the vaccines are protecting against them.

“I think what we can expect later in 2021, or 2022, is just a little tweak or addition that helps cover that South Africa strain and any others that may pop up between now and then,” Dr. Stanton said.

Dr. Stanton says the approach to treating people with the different strains hasn’t changed, either.

“At this point, COVID is COVID. We can recognize it looks pretty much the same and we’ve gotten good at identifying it based on the symptoms,” he said.

While we will face new strains in the future, Dr. Stanton says the one thing that will help a return to normalcy is the vaccine.

“We have been vaccinating hundreds of people an hour,” said Lance Poston, co-director of UK Health Corps.

Poston, encourages anyone to sign up now, so you’ll be ready for the vaccination when it’s your turn.

“Helping us keep the Commonwealth healthy and get those important vaccines out there,” Poston said.

The UK vaccine clinic follows CDC guidelines for distributing the vaccine. They say their system picks out people for an appointment based on your information, like your job, age and pre-existing health conditions.

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