Coronavirus

Dr. Ashish Jha breaks down how COVID-19 variants form — and outlines what needs to happen to handle them

"In a future where (the) US is vaccinated but others are not, we could see rise of variants that can infect, cause outbreaks here and other vaccinated places."

A health worker performs a Covid-19 test at a mobile laboratory in Guatemala City on January 27, 2021. JOHAN ORDONEZ / AFP via Getty Images

Even as health care workers the world over are administering the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines in hopes of bringing an end to the global pandemic, the rise of virus variants are underscoring the need for a faster vaccine rollout, Dr. Ashish Jha says.

Mutations have formed new variants originating in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil. All have been reportedly found in the United States.

“Variants arise when infections run wild, and selection pressures lead to dangerous mutations that can then thrive,” Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote in a Twitter thread Thursday night.

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“Each of these countries had large outbreaks even before their variants took off,” he added in a subsequent tweet. “So what are the implications if we ever want to end this pandemic? We have to bring (the) pandemic under control everywhere.”

According to Jha, in order to squash virus outbreaks, officials need to put in place virus control policies, expand testing, have people wear high-quality masks, and “vaccinate the world, now, as quickly as possible.”

Jha called for marshaling a vaccine manufacturing effort the world over to speed up the rate of producing doses.

“In a future where (the) US is vaccinated but others are not, we could see (the) rise of variants that can infect, cause outbreaks here and other vaccinated places — requiring us to update our vaccines and vaccinate everyone again,” he wrote. “It’s the nightmare scenario of a never-ending pandemic.”

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