Racing COVID Variants with the Vaccine

Apr 8, 2021

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Wisconsin celebrated significant vaccine milestones this week.

Vaccinators have administered over 3 million COVID-19 shots in the state.

That means over a third of Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine and 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

But even as more people get vaccinated, cases of COVID-19 are rising across the state.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said that’s largely because of COVID variants.

“What we’re doing is racing against the variants with the vaccine,” she said.

All five strains of COVID-19 are present in Wisconsin, and they’re becoming more common.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the Chief Medical Officer with the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said it’s likely the UK variant, or B.1.1.7, will be the predominant COVID strain in Wisconsin in the next several weeks.

“Compared to a month ago, our seven-day case average is 100 percent higher,” he said. “So this is a real trend. We are in a new phase of the epidemic that is clearly worse than we were before.”

Dr. Westergaard said current spread is particularly worrisome because of the age group of people getting infected.

“This has not been the case throughout the pandemic, but as of this week the highest number of cases is among those under 18. This is a real concern,” he said.

Health officials say the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID variants are continuing to social distance, mask and get vaccinated – an option that is now available to everyone older than 16 in the state of Wisconsin.

“If you are uninsured, you can get vaccinated. If you are undocumented, you can get vaccinated. If you are older than 16 you can get vaccinated,” Willems Van Dijk said. “And please, please, please do so. The more of us who get vaccinated, the closer we get to herd immunity and a safer Wisconsin.”