FGCU medical professor shares perspective on COVID-19 variants

Posted at 1:26 AM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 01:26:03-05

ESTERO, Fla. — We here at WFTX have been hearing from our viewers on Facebook about the Covid-19 vaccines and variants.

We took some of your questions to Robert Hawkes, the director of the Physician Assistant Program at FGCU.

First, he addressed the safety of the vaccines currently available.

"I want people to be confident to know the vaccine is safe and we are doing everything we're supposed to do," said Hawkes.

"And don't be afraid to take it," he added.

Here is an edited transcript of the rest of our Zoom interview with Hawkes as we focused on the Covid-19 variants we've been hearing about.

WFTX: Is there a difference when someone calls it a mutation, a variant or something else?

ROBERT HAWKES/Director of FGCU Physician Assistant Program: It's really kind of the same thing. This is a normal process for viruses. They will change ever so slightly over time. What research has shown us is that about every two weeks, Covid 19 virus is changing slightly, not significantly but just minor variations. One of those that has come out has been this strain in Europe that, in theory, is allowing for easier receipt for the virus so they can contract Covid 19 easier and become more sick.

WFTX: One our viewers wants to know if you already had it and have antibodies, will it be protection from new strains?

HAWKES: It probably will the mutations are so slight, your body will still recognize it as the same Covid 19. So if you have already had it, your body's antibodies should allow you some protection just as the new vaccine that's coming out should be offering the same protection as well.

WFTX: What kinds of questions are you getting about these new strains?

HAWKES: Some of the things we're trying to find out is how rapidly is it changing. Is it becoming more virulent. Are some people becoming more sick from it? It does not appear to be more virulent. It may be more contagious,

WFTX: Is it considered more deadly?

HAWKES: At this point, it has not shown that it is more deadly. It's just that it's more contagious.

WFTX: Should people be taking additional or different precautions with the new strains?

HAWKES: They should be aware that because it's more easily spread so it's more important to maintain hand washing and using hand sanitizers and maintain the mask when outside. And more importantly, if you've been exposed to someone who's had it - or if you're sick yourself, please don't go outside. Because if it's easier to spread, that just means it's going easier to spread to other people.