Two Iowans test positive for India variant of COVID-19

A COVID-19 cell. (Image by Fusion Medical Animation via Unsplash)

Two Iowans have tested positive for the India variant of the COVID-19 virus, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced Tuesday.

The variant, known as B.1.617, was first detected in India and remains prevalent there. As COVID-19 cases explode in India, with 20 million cases reported, scientists have not determined whether the strain is more transmissible or severe than other variants of the virus. The New York Times reported early evidence shows vaccines still work against the strain, but they may be less effective than against other variants.

The Iowa Department of Public Health noted that B.1.617 was not yet a “variant of concern,” whereas strains from the United Kingdom and from Brazil were flagged as being more severe. The United Kingdom strain, B.1.1.7, was the prevalent variant in the United States in mid-April.

The State Hygienic Lab identified the India variant in two Jefferson County residents, one adult and one older adult. Iowa’s lead epidemiologist, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, encouraged individuals over 16 to get vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to prevent this, or any other currently circulating strain of the virus from spreading through the population,” Pedati said.

COVID-19 cases in Iowa have fallen by 18% over the last two weeks, the Times reported, but vaccine demand is falling as well. The Des Moines Register reported that 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties turned down at least part of their most recent state allocation of vaccines.

President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisors announced Tuesday that vaccines would be distributed to states differently due to variance in demand. Declined supplies will be held in a general pool, allowing states with higher demand to use the excess. Biden also announced a new goal Tuesday: to have 70% of Americans receive their first vaccine dose by July Fourth, two months away. That effort will include nearly $250 million for media campaigns targeted at hesitant groups and additional funds to reach rural communities.

Katie Akin
Reporter Katie Akin began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.