The number of variants or mutations of the novel coronavirus continues to grow.
New research that needs to be peer reviewed says there are seven new variants in the United States, mainly in southcentral and southwest states.
That's in addition to the three that are of the most concern out of the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.
Johns Hopkins doctors say while there are still a small number of these viruses in the U.S., there needs to be a more coordinated response now.
“But part of why we need a system in order to track and characterize these variances so that, if that situation does happen, we're prepared, and we can change the vaccines really before it becomes an issue,” said Dr. Caitlin Rivers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The variants come from high transmission. So, in a new report, Johns Hopkins first recommends keeping control measures in place.
“Although we are headed in the right direction and cases and hospitalizations are falling, we are still well above our previous peaks in the spring and summer, and we really need to stay the course and make sure that we are able to get to a better place,” said Rivers.
Doctors don't want to see another wave related to variant spread. They say the U.S. has the infrastructure to do genetic sequencing, but it's not really organized in a way that benefits public health officials.
Whereas in Great Britain, Rivers says they are sequencing about 10% of people that test positive for COVID-19. With larger data, more protection is possible.
“The primary action that we would be looking for is to update what we call medical countermeasures the test the therapeutics and the vaccines, to make sure that they were a good match,” said Rivers.
COVID-19 vaccine makers are already looking at mutations to figure out how they might tweak the shots, similar to how the flu vaccine is updated every year. Johns Hopkins also recommends making contact tracing and case investigation a priority.