A Houston hospital has reported its first case of the Lambda variant of the coronavirus, according to USA Today.
However, public health officials say it is too soon to tell that the variant will cause a major concern as the Delta variant continues to affect unvaccinated communities in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 83% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are associated with the Delta variant, with the vast majority of hospitalizations seen among unvaccinated people. On the other hand, the Lambda variant has been reported in less than 700 cases in the U.S.
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) Lambda is a “variant of interest,” explaining that it has genetic changes that affect the virus’ characteristics and has caused significant community spread or clusters of COVID-19 in multiple countries, according to USA Today.
Dr. S. Wesley Long, a pathologist in Houston, Texas, who is affiliated with Houston Methodist Hospital, where the Lambda case has been reported, said the variant does not appear to be nearly as transmissible as Delta.
“I know there’s great interest in lambda, but I think people really need to be focused on delta,” he said. “Most importantly, regardless of the variant, our best defense against all these variants is vaccination.”
Dr. Abhijit Duggal, Associate Program Director of Critical Care fellowship at Cleveland Clinic, said, “The natural trajectory of viruses is that they have a tendency to have mutations, and whenever we have a significant mutation that changes the virus … we get a new variant.”
He said the Lambda variant does not seem to spark concern like the Delta variant, but “watchful waiting and being cautious is going to be the most important thing at this point.”
The Lambda variant, which was first identified in Peru in December 2020, has been reported in 29 countries as of June. The WHO said Argentina and Chile have also seen a surge in Lambda cases.
Are the currently available vaccines effective against the Lambda variant? Studies have suggested they are highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and deaths across multiple variants.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, in particular, have shown to keep similar levels of effectiveness against several of the variants of concern, per USA Today.
Dr. Long said, “Getting vaccinated still remains the most important factor in stopping the virus’ deadly effects and slowing down new variants.” The story was published in USA Today.