The U.K. coronavirus variant is likely already in Vermont, warned the president of the University of Vermont Medical Center this week.
The variant, identified as B.1.1.7, was first discovered in the U.K. several weeks ago but has since appeared in several U.S. states, including Colorado, where it was first identified in the country, as well as New York, California, Florida, Georgia, and, as recently as Thursday, in Pennslyvania.
The strain is thought to be more transmissible than COVID-19. At this time, experts appear confident that existing coronavirus vaccines will work against the variant.
Speaking at a Burlington city press conference Wednesday, University of Vermont Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler said Vermonters shouldn’t be surprised if the variant is identified in the Green Mountain State in the next five to 10 days.
“We should assume it’s already in Vermont,” said Leffler, per local outlet VTDigger.
Leffler also spoke to the variant’s transmissibility, warning that its ability to infect even more people than the strain originally identified in the early days of the pandemic could have adverse effects on the community.
“The old version — let’s say you would infect only two other people. Chances are both of those people will recover as well. Let’s say the new version, you infected 10 other people. One of those people could actually end up dying, right? So that’s the problem,” Leffler added, according to local news station WCAX-TV.
So far, officials with Pfizer and BioNTech — the companies whose COVID-19 vaccine candidate proved highly efficacious in late-stage clinical trials and was the first jab to see emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — have voiced confidence in its ability to protect against the strain while also touting the flexibility of the technology should a tweak need to be made.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.