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Health update: Variants, vaccines and more.

A message from Julie Webster, Wirral’s Director of Public Health

Dear residents,

In recent weeks there has been lots of talk about COVID-19 ‘variants’. In this week’s blog I’ve tried to answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about variants, as simply as possible.

What is a ‘variant’?

A COVID-19 variant is a mutation of the original virus. All viruses mutate (or change) – this is completely normal and not unique to COVID-19.


Why are we now seeing these variants?

Scientists across the globe have been monitoring variants throughout the pandemic.

Finding variants early can allow officials to respond swiftly and prevent it from spreading further. Many more variants are likely to be identified in the coming months.


What is a ‘variant of concern’?

Most virus changes are not a cause for concern. But every so often a virus mutates in a way that benefits it, for example allowing it to spread more quickly. In this case the variant may be considered a ‘variant of concern’ by the UK government.


If you have had the original strain of COVID-19, can you catch a variant one as well?

National teams are working to find out whether immunity from a previous infection of COVID-19 could protect you against a new one. While this answer is still unknown, the safest thing to do for yourself and others is to follow the ‘Hands Face Space’ guidance.


Do the current vaccines work against the variants?

It is unusual for any variant virus to stop a vaccine working completely, but variants can alter how well a vaccine works. Around the world, efforts are being made to understand if variants effect the vaccine so that if it’s needed, vaccines can be tweaked. This is what happens with the flu vaccine every year.

The latest research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective and I would strongly advise anybody who is offered one to take it.


How do I keep myself and others safe?

As we continue to monitor new variants remember that the best way to protect against the virus is to continue following the stay at home guidance and:

  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your face
  • Keep your distance from those outside your household group

For anybody interested in learning more about variants, you can read this helpful Public Health England article.

Thanks for reading and please, stay safe.