Medical experts at Cleveland Clinic Florida are tracking a new highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 SARS virus, the Lambda variant, but warning it is too early to predict its impact.
“While worldwide attention has been focused on the Delta variant, the emergence of yet another variant in a continuing evolution of this virus is further evidence of the need to continue exercising every precaution and doing all we can to expedite and encourage vaccination for as many people as possible,” said Dr. Lyssette Cardona, infectious disease specialist. “The earliest documented samples of the Lambda variant were recorded in Peru in December 2020; and in June, the World Health Organization officially noted that the Lambda variant was on its radar.”
So far, the Lambda variant has been identified in 29 countries.
The Lambda variant is highly infectious and may be even more vaccine-resistant than previous incarnations of the virus that has caused more than 4.4 million deaths worldwide, including over 340 in The Bahamas where both the public and private healthcare facilities are straining at the seams.
“In the end,” said Cardona, “the shape-shifting nature of the coronavirus, like all viruses, causes doctors and experts around the world to keep a close eye on, though at this time, we do not believe the Lambda variant will change the way we have to deal with and confront this virus. It is part of the fast-paced evolution of the virus and that is ultimately what we must maintain our level of vigilance to observe, track and treat, but most importantly encourage everyone to do what they can individually to prevent being impacted themselves or spreading the disease to others in their family or community.”
Experts stress that while the vaccine may not prevent someone from getting the diseases, it greatly improves their chances of survival with the latest figures making the unvaccinated 29 times more likely to die from COVID than those who contract it even though they are fully vaccinated.
The Bahamas’ National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee’s latest vaccine tracker chart shows only 14 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (56,000 out of a population of 400,000), well below the target of 70-85 percent needed for herd immunity.
“These new waves of infections show that the pandemic is not close to being over yet,” said Cardona. “At this time, vaccination has proven to be our most effective tool, and vaccines are readily available for many children and adults. Vaccinations are our best defense against these emerging mutations.”
According to Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, chairperson of Bahamas National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee, the vaccine committee hopes to vaccinate over 60,000 residents within the next six weeks. There are also 19,240 AstraZeneca vaccine doses available for distribution.
“The best way for everyone in The Bahamas to protect themselves and prevent more surges from happening in the future is to get vaccinated and follow established protocols,” said Dahl-Regis.