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UK Coronavirus Variant Identified in Idaho
Jenn and Scott Bradshaw, who work in St. Luke's ICU, get their second vaccine shot. PHOTO: Joy Prudek
Thursday, February 25, 2021


The first known infection of the UK variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Idaho.

The individual infected by the variant is an adult female who lives in Ada County. She had traveled out of state earlier this month, and it is believed that she was exposed during her travels.

Epidemiologists with Central District Health Department are attempting to identify close contacts who might have been exposed.

The UK variant, first detected in the United States in late December 2020, spreads more easily and quickly than other variants.

The Centers for Disease control has reported 1,881 cases of the variant in 45 states.

Idahoans are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because the evidence shows that the vaccines will protect people from the virus variants.

“As we work to offer vaccine to more Idahoans and learn more about how these variants behave, our best defense is to stay consistent with our health and safety measures. We know that the choices we’ve made in the last year to wear a face covering, keep our distance from others, wash our hands frequently, and stay home when we’re sick will serve us well in helping to protect us from these potentially more severe variants,” said Kimberly Link, Communicable Disease Control Manger with Central District Health.

 The South African variant of SARS-CoV-2 was identified in a resident of southwest Idaho last week. A second case of that variant was identified in the state on Tuesday. Moderna announced Wednesday it has created a vaccine that addresses that variant. It still needs to be tested. And Pfizer is studying whether a third vaccine doses can provide protection against variants.

Tested wastewater samples in Boise have also detected the presence of the California variant, but no individual has been identified as having it.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare plans to begin reporting variant counts on its data dashboard at later this week.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories now has the capacity to sequence Idaho samples to identify the variants to better understand how the virus is spreading in the state. Idaho had sequenced 313 samples as of Tuesday.

Drug company representatives told Congress this week that the United States can expect to see 240 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March. That includes 220 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna and 20 million from Johnson & Johnson.

That means the United States could be injecting three million vaccine doses a day into arms by April—nearly twice what it’s doing now.

AstraZeneca could secure FDA authorization for its vaccine in April. If it does, the company is prepared to immediately release 30 million doses and then add another 20 million by the end of April.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was deemed 66 percent effective at preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19. But experts say it’s difficult to compare its studies to those of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s as they happened at different stages in the pandemic and in different geographies.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was tested in countries where variants were circulating. It is strongly protective against severe disease that causes hospitalization and death.

Early data from the United Kingdom where the UK variant was first discovered suggests vaccines have reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 75 percent in those who have received one dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. And officials say that may be an underestimate.

Idaho has vaccinated 223,152 people so far with 5,055 of those Blaine County residents.


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