COVID cases spike in South America as concerns mount over lambda strain

As if the delta variant of COVID-19 isn’t doing enough damage in places like the U.S. and U.K., now we have yet another variant of the coronavirus that may be looming in our future: the lambda variant, which is currently causing huge spikes in cases in several South American countries, the Daily Caller reports.

According to the New York Post, the lambda variant is thought to be more resistant to vaccines and has even caused huge case numbers in Chile, where some 60% of the population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Like the delta variant, lambda is more transmissible than the original strain of the virus because of a genetic mutation. Lambda has been seen in at least 26 countries so far, according to the Post, with the largest outbreaks being in Chile and Ecuador up to this point.

The U.S., for its part, has seen about 900 cases of lambda so far, which is less than one-tenth of 1% of all cases of COVID-19. But experts reportedly worry that lambda could keep the periodic spikes of cases going in the U.S. even after the delta variant declines.

The difference between Chile and the U.S.

It’s scary to think that this new variant could be immune to or even less affected by vaccines, which have given much of the U.S. protection from serious infection and have helped keep death numbers from the coronavirus disease low in recent months.

But there is one major difference between Chile and the U.S.: The majority of Chile’s population received the Sinovac vaccine, which was made in China and has seen reports of many more problems and breakthrough infections than the vaccines that have been given in the U.S.

Because Chile mainly used Sinovac, the lambda variant may have a completely different profile in the U.S., if it does become prevalent here.

The U.S. currently has three different vaccines available for use: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. While there have been higher rates of breakthrough cases with the delta variant, all three vaccines have seemed to protect against the vast majority of severe disease and death.

Hospitalizations have risen because of the sheer number of breakthrough cases, but are not at levels that might have been seen before vaccines became available.

Should we still look at cases?

As the Daily Caller notes, the lambda variant has so far been labeled a “variant of interest” by public health agencies, as opposed to the delta variant, which was labeled a “variant of concern.”

While it could cause problems similar to the delta variant or worse, it could also have other vulnerabilities that make it fizzle out before it gets to the U.S. or other parts of the world.

As long as the vaccines protect against the vast majority of deaths and hospitalizations, however, should we even care too much about increased cases, particularly when many don’t even need to see a doctor for it? The question remains.

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