HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The World Health Organization has listed "mu", the newest COVID-19 variant, as a 'variant of interest'. Health officials say they are keeping a close eye on it, so we asked Dr. George Delclos, professor of epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health about how concerning mu is and what we should know about it.
What do we know about the mu variant of COVID-19 so far?
"It is classified by the World Health Organization as a variant of interest, that means, one, they are keeping an eye on it because it has some characteristics that need to be monitored. In the U.S. it is not yet a major player. Well over 95% of what's circulating in the U.S. is the Delta variant, originally reported in India," explained Delclos.
How concerning is the mu variant at this point?
"To me, right now, it is not as concerning as delta, because delta is rampant and we know that delta is more infectious than previous variants. Many mutations wind up being nothing, but some of them can be concerning, so at this point and time I agree with the CDC. We need to keep an eye on it," said Delclos.
One factor that sounds concerning is that studies show the mu variant may be resistant to existing vaccines. Dr. Delclos explains that so far, most of that information comes from lab testing, not clinical testing on a significant amount of people.
Is the mu variant resistant to existing vaccines?
"I am not throwing out the lab studies at all. I mean, there are some findings in lab studies that tell us we need to keep an eye on it and that it has certain characteristics in its mutation that could represent that it is more resistant to vaccines or that it evades the vaccines. That's why I'm not downplaying it at all. I'm just saying we need to keep monitoring it and if that happens, then we have to deal with it. But we shouldn't do it at the expense of taking our eyes off the delta variant," said Delclos.
We also spoke to health experts about the latest on booster vaccines. Last month, the CDC announced their recommendation for a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine for people who are immunocompromised.
The Biden administration says booster vaccines may be available to all fully vaccinated Americans as soon as Sept. 20. However, the FDA and CDC are still reviewing data before making a recommendation about the general population getting the third dose.
Dr. Hana El Sahly with Baylor College of Medicine spoke with ABC13 to answer common third dose questions.
Can you get a COVID-19 booster shot from a different manufacturer than your first doses?
"It is recommended that they stay with the same regimen they started with. So if they got the first two doses of Pfizer, the third should be Pfizer and the same with Moderna. Having said that, for whatever reason if they don't have access to the same one, it is okay to take another one if necessary," explained El Sahly.
At this point, Pfizer booster shots will likely be ready by Sept. 20, but Moderna may be delayed.
Can you get a COVID-19 booster vaccine too soon?
El Sahly and Delclos both say the answer is yes.
"Your two doses, while we're all waiting on the booster dose, they are working. It is not like an all or none thing here. With respect to what the booster does, I would counsel folks to really pay attention to - let science do its work. If you go out and get your booster dose now, for all we know, you are wasting a vaccine dose because it may be too soon. So let's wait for the science to help, and at the same time remember what you have onboard already is very, very effective," explained Delclos.
If you are fully vaccinated and not immunocompromised, why wait to get a booster shot?
"At the moment, because we are waiting to see the need for it. In addition to whether it's safe and immunogenic in all groups. As a rule of thumb in medicine, if you don't need something, don't get it, don't take it. Whether or not the need for it is there is currently under examination," said El Sahly.