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Lack of data on variants causing confusion

CALGARY (CityNews) — Variants of concern are dominating the COVID-19 battle in Alberta.

Those studying the pandemic are now trying to bridge the gap in our knowledge – with little known about the variant strains.

Research shows the B.1.1.7 variant is more contagious and potentially more severe – making up the vast majority of Alberta’s cases of concern.

Evidence also indicating that the P.1 variant, has a higher transmissibility rate.

READ MORE: ‘Almost half, maybe 40 per cent’ of Pfizer doses to pharmacies to be scaled back, redirected to AHS sites: RxA

“There have been some reports of reinfection,” said Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, the executive director of the Canadian COVID Genomics Network. “So, a variant that is somewhat able to escape your immune system when you develop immunity after being infected, and there is some initial reports on potentially being a variant that is affecting younger people who are otherwise healthy with no comorbidities.”

When it comes to the B.1.351 strain, Lopez-Correa says the data is lacking.

“Actually that applies for the three variants, we need more data, and that’s what actively the scientific community is now doing around the world, is collecting more data to really have, you know, we cannot make conclusions with very small numbers.”

Modellers have been warning of the coming tidal wave for months and are disappointed that it’s already come this far and are concerned about what’s still ahead.

READ MORE: Alberta identifies 1,521 COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant infections

“Those variants are … they’re so fast that if we reopen, if now we have restrictions and bend the curve, and we reopen on ten daily cases, it will start growing again and we will have the fourth wave,” said Dr. Gosia Gasperowicz, Developmental Biologist and Researcher at the University of Calgary.

Going forward, Lopez-Correa says we will likely just adapt as we have with other viruses.

“The way the pandemic is evolving, the way the virus is changing, and what we have seen with influenza and other viruses, is that they actually don’t go away and we learn how to live with them. We might also have other viruses.”