B117 COVID variant deaths 64% higher; Moderna updates vaccine

Deaths 64% higher with B117 COVID variant; Moderna testing updated vaccine

The death rate for the B117 COVID-19 variant was 64% higher than for previously circulating strains in people older than 30 years, a study from the United Kingdom has found. Led by University of Exeter researchers and published today in BMJ, involved community-based testing and death data from 54,906 matched pairs of participants who tested positive for COVID-19 from Oct 1, 2020, to Jan 29, 2021.

Moderna announced Wednesday that it has administered the first doses of a modified vaccine designed to fight coronavirus variants to study participants. The company said it is observing the efficacy of two different modified vaccines in a small study involving 60 people who already received the original vaccine.

The B117 COVID-19 variant now makes up more than 25% of the coronavirus cases in the state of Connecticut, researchers at the Yale School of Public Health say, raising the possibility that coronavirus infections will spike in the state once again.

The state on Monday reported 15 new B117 cases, bringing its total to 81, as well as a second case of the B1351 variant, originally detected in the Republic of South Africa. The new cases spanned much of the state, from Bridgeport to New Hartford to Rocky Hill.

With B117 spreading, the Yale researchers say they’re concerned about Governor Ned Lamont’s plan to dramatically ease pandemic-related restrictions beginning March 19. Nathan Grubaugh, who leads the Yale lab that sequences B117, tweeted last week that reopening so soon was “a terrible idea,” and Fauver on Tuesday similarly questioned the governor’s timeline.

Health officials in Connecticut have had mixed reactions to the growing prevalence of the B117 variant. Keith Grant, Hartford HealthCare’s senior system director for infection prevention, said he’s not particularly worried about the new strain.

“Honestly, I’m less concerned about what variants are out there than our effort to prevent transmission in general,” he said. “I think what we worry about is our vaccination effort, worry about proper masking, worry about preventing transmission.”

Vaccination Information in the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Governor Andy Beshear announced 157 new vaccination sites, including Baptist Health LaGrange, bringing the total number of locations to 567. Also included are 10 Kroger sites, 10 Walmart sites, and 136 independent pharmacies.

See all available sites across the Commonwealth at http://vaccine.ky.gov.

Kentucky’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline, (855) 598-2246, has the same features as the website. Kentuckians can get assistance completing the vaccine eligibility questionnaire and scheduling an appointment when doses are available. People in healthcare and logistics are eligible immediately.

Governor Beshear extended an executive order on pharmaceuticals that allows all Kentucky pharmacists to dispense emergency 30-day refills on medications for Kentucky citizens; non-Kentuckians are ineligible.

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