A race between vaccinations and more contagious coronavirus variants has begun in Arizona

New coronavirus variants could push herd immunity further from Arizona’s reach

Michael Worobey, Department Head of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at his research laboratory where he currently is looking for evidence of new coronavirus variants in wastewater at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on February 5, 2021. By Lauren Salgado / for the Arizona Daily Star

By Alex Devoid | Arizona Daily Star  

Health experts are warning we are in a race between vaccine distribution and new, more transmissible coronavirus variants.

While most measurements show the pandemic improving in Arizona, two new variants have been discovered here. Both are known to be more contagious.

If these variants establish a foothold in the state, they could prolong the pandemic in Arizona unless people get vaccinated faster. The question is whether we can take advantage of our head start.

“Let’s all hope that we can get vaccination out in front,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, director of the Biodesign Institute research center at Arizona State University. “But certainly the variants, there’s risk that they could spread quickly.”

Arizona has been one of the slowest states to vaccinate its residents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In terms of the number of people who have received both vaccine doses, as of Friday, the state ranked 50th out of all states, territories and the District of Columbia — a group of 59 places.

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