ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) officials say the COVID-19 variants are becoming more prevalent and they are concerned about the risk of another possible spike in cases despite the progress on vaccination.

MDH is keeping a close eye on several COVID-19 variants here in the state.

As of Tuesday, two cases of the P-1 variant from Brazil, six cases of the B-1351 variant from South Africa, and 108 cases between the B-1427 and B-1429 variants from California have been confirmed in Minnesota.

"Most mutations don't have much impact," said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. "But some can make a virus more transmissible and/or more likely to cause severe illness."

Health officials are concerned about the California variants because they have the potential to spread more easily and may be less responsive to prior immunity or vaccine-based immunity.

In addition, there have been 479 cases of the B-117 variant from the United Kingdom.

"Experts have predicted that B-117 will be the predominant circulating strain in the U.S. due to it's higher transmissibility," Lynfield said.

Lynfield says it's a race to vaccinate more people versus the growth of variant cases.

"A more infectious virus spreading widely among millions of susceptible Minnesotans, some who may be tempted to relax their social distancing, masking, and other precautions can help fuel a third spike in COVID cases and a corresponding increase in hospitalizations and deaths," Lynfield said.

Another issue is so-called breakthrough cases. Those happen when someone who has been fully vaccinated still contracts the virus.

"In a small number of vaccinated people, their immune response isn't strong enough to the vaccine to completely prevent infection with the virus if they were to come across it," said MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann.

Ehresmann says the vaccine is 95 percent effective, which means we could see infections in five of every 100 people fully vaccinated.

"It's important to know that even if someone is vaccinated and then goes on to be on of the few unfortunate people to develop a breakthrough case, there can still be some level of protection provided by the vaccine," Ehresmann said.

Ehresmann also says of the more than 800,000 Minnesotans who have been fully vaccinated, 89 breakthrough cases were detected. That's less than one-tenth of a percent.

Also of note, there have been no deaths in any of these breakthrough cases.



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