First, Variants. Why do I feel like I’m on the set of Bladerunner?
Cells mutate. They all do. Viruses, while not cells, mutate, too. Coronovirus mutates. When a mutation results in the virus behaving differently or looking differently, let’s call it a variant. There have been 3 variants described in the United States. The B.1.1.7 (UK), the B.1.351 (South Africa), and the P.1 (Japan/Brazil).
The most prominent variant now is the UK variant which is more transmissible, causes more severe illness, and less readily detected. I hope Americans don’t start beating up the British because of this. It ain’t their fault. It’s just what we call it because we first detected it there.
These variants are important because of the features described above. This is a race between the virus mutating randomly and quickly enough to be resistant to the vaccine, before we get enough of the population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. These variants have not proved themselves resistant to the vaccine, which is good, but the vaccine doesn’t achieve the 90% efficacy with at least the UK variant as it does with the native strain.