March 10, 2021

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Act Now: wear a mask, stay six feet apart and avoid crowds
About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19

The emergence of variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, reminds us that we all need to redouble our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is more important than ever that we all wear well-fitting masks, stay at least 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with us, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and wash our hands often. These practices and the continued effort to vaccinate more people can help end this pandemic.

Some of these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources and lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated, and more studies are under way.

What We Know, What We Don’t Know, What It Means

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and scientists expect new variants of a virus to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic. As we are working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging variants are threatening progress. If one of the variants is able to evade the vaccine, our progress will be slowed or potentially reversed. Our window of opportunity to halt the pandemic is now. By the time a variant is detected in a community, it may already be spreading. Proven strategies to prevent spread can limit the impact of these variants. We can slow the emergence of variants by reducing transmission. Everyone should wear a well-fitting mask and follow CDC’s prevention recommendations.

What We Don’t Know
Scientists are working to learn more about these variants, and more studies are needed to understand:
  • How widely these new variants have spread
  • How the disease caused by these new variants differs from the disease caused by other variants that are currently circulating
  • How these variants may affect existing therapies, vaccines, and tests
What It Means
Public health officials are studying these variants quickly to learn more to control their spread. They want to understand whether the variants:
  • Spread more easily from person to person
  • Cause milder or more severe disease in people
  • Are detected by currently available viral tests
  • Respond to medicines currently being used to treat people for COVID-19
  • Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine


To learn more about COVID-19 variants and vaccines, visit the links below:

CDC encourages everyone to continue to protect themselves and others against COVID-19: wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, wash your hands often, and get vaccinated when it’s available to you.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30329 

Contact CDC-INFO
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: 888-232-6348