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Experts watching U.K. variant in Iowa, say vaccines offer some protection

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MercyOne snip

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - In a little over two months, Iowa has gone from three to 106 cases of the B.1.1.7 or United Kingdom variant of COVID-19.

Health experts in the Cedar Valley say that means cases of the variant are doubling about every ten days. While it is troubling, it's not out of control yet.

"It's not a lot of them yet. But we just have to watch that and see what that looks like," Dr. Matt Sojka said, chief medical officer at MercyOne Medical Center in Waterloo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified three variants of concern spread widely across the U.S. The U.K. variant has been most active, with 15,511 cases across the country.

Experts like Sojka think more gatherings and increased air travel could lead to a spike.

"I'm very nervous about what that's going to look like as those individuals travel to Florida and California for vacation," Sojka said.

University studies and real world data from drug companies is showing the three vaccines currently approved by the FDA are at least effective in preventing hospitalization and death from contracting one of these variants.

"All three vaccines seem to be very good at preventing that portion," Sojka said.

Technically contracting the virus and having minor symptoms are still very possible.

Moderna announced in late February that it was testing a new vaccine specifically for one variant; the South African or B.1.351. Sojka says other companies will likely follow suit and Americans may need a third --or yearly shot-- to keep fighting these new mutations.

"We don't have a crystal ball, but we need to be aware of and start planning for that," Sojka.