Cases of highly contagious COVID-19 variant rapidly increasing in U.S.; Jacksonville research to start vaccine booster study

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant are rapidly increasing in the U.S. This comes as a local research is about to start a vaccine booster study.

“Unfortunately the Delta variant, which originated in India, is now growing and incidents here in the United States, including Florida,” explains Dr. Michael Koren, Director of the Jacksonville Center of Clinical Research.

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Right now about 10 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are from the Delta variant.

“The good news is that our vaccines are holding up very well against this variant and we are not seeing cases in Delta variant in people who are vaccinated. We are seeing them primarily in people who are unvaccinated,” says Dr. Koren.

Dr. Koren is also the principal investigator for several COVID-19 vaccine studies. “2020 was supposed to be my year to take it easy a little bit but it hasn’t worked out that way.”

He and his team are about to get started on yet another trial, this time for a booster shot. “The question is whether or not a third dose of the messenger RNA vaccine would be necessary to maintain that very, very strong level of protection and we are doing research right now.”

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So why is this important?

Well Dr. Koren says we know that the vaccines provide a high level of protection for at least six months, but what happens after that is still being studied.

“Unfortunately, if you don’t get the vaccine, there is a very strong chance that you were going to get infected with one of the variants.”

We asked how aggressive the Delta variant is.

Dr. Koren responded saying, “It’s nasty. The UK study that was posted in the journal Lancet, which is a very reputable journal, says that the likelihood of hospitalization from the Delta variant is twice as much as the base variant.”

The research center is looking for volunteers to participate in the Pfizer booster study. The one catch, the volunteers have to have been involved in previous vaccine trials.