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WHO monitoring COVID-19 variant known as mu; booster plan faces complications

WHO monitoring COVID-19 variant known as mu; booster plan faces complications
WHO monitoring COVID-19 variant known as mu; booster plan faces complications

The COVID-19 variant known as mu has been classified as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization.

“We are certainly aware of the Mu variant. We are keeping a very close eye on it. It is rarely seen here,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Mu is the firth variant of interest being monitored by the organization. WHO said it’s been identified in more than 39 countries, including the U.S., and was first detected at the beginning of the year in January.

Currently, it’s not on WHO’s list of “variants of concern.” About 2,000 mu cases have been identified so far in the U.S.

Meanwhile, there’s new confusion over booster shots.

Even though Pfizer and Moderna have submitted applications for the booster plans, the Food and Drug Administration still has to approve them before shots can go out.

While the FDA seems ready to recommend boosters for people who got Pfizer’s vaccine, which could still mean a September 20 launch date, the agency reportedly doesn’t have enough information to do the same for Moderna, which just submitted their application this week.

“I would not at all be surprised that the adequate full regimen for vaccination will likely be three doses,” said Fauci.

The biggest difference between Pfizer and Moderna’s boosters right now is when people should get it.

Pfizer recommends people get a booster eight months after their second dose, while Moderna says six months.

But there are still lingering questions from many, like why do we need a booster at all?

“Boosters provide your immune system with a refresher course on that disease so that it’s easier for your immune system to protect you,” said Dr. Chirag Patel, with UF Health Jacksonville.

Patel says that’s especially the case when viruses mutate like we saw with the delta variant.

“As a kid you had to get booster shots, why do we not have to get them continually through your life then?” News4Jax asked the doctor.

“Let’s consider a disease from the last century -- 1900 to 2000, smallpox accounted for 10% of the deaths that happened across the world. And through vaccination, smallpox is gone. That’s because vaccines eliminated smallpox so much that there’s just no need for a vaccine anymore,” said Patel.

But Patel says that’s not the case when not enough people are getting vaccinated and the virus mutates.

“If we had gotten 70% vaccinated early on, early meaning before this thing started mutating, we could have achieved herd immunity and maybe made this a onetime thing opposed to what could potentially become an annual problem,” Patel said.

News4Jax asked if people vaccinated could potentially need another booster.

“Yeah. Absolutely,” the doctor responded. “It’s a vicious cycle. If you’re not doing what it takes to stop the virus, it’s going to do what it naturally wants to do, which is mutate and survive. You’re going to continually see this disease out there,” Patel said.

As for when those booster shots will be available is still up in the air for Moderna, but it seems for now Pfizer remains on track for a September 17th meeting with the FDA.

About the Author:

Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.