Dr. Rajeev Fernando is one of New York's top infectious disease specialists, and this week, he answers your COVID-19 questions about the vaccine, and tells us a little more about the new strain of COVID-19

When you need to know what's happening with the coronavirus, join KICKS 105.5 every Thursday morning. Dr. Rajeev Fernando answers your COVID-19 questions.

What can you tell us about this new strain of COVID-19, the first case in this country was diagnosed the other day in New York State, what do you know?

"This is not surprising, essentially it was first identified in the U.K. in September, so it's not surprising it's in the states now. It's really been in circulation that long. Remember, it only takes one passenger to come from the U.K. and bring it over here to the states, and it starts spreading here, it's also in multiple countries around the world."

Will the current vaccine be able to handle this latest strain?

"Absolutely, at this point there are about twenty three mutations on this so called spike protein which is responsible for the virulence of COVID-19. The vaccine attacks the whole spike protein, so despite these mutations, it should be able to attack the proteins and we should be good with that."

Ellen in Dover Plains sent in this question: If someone has already had the virus, should they still get the vaccine?

"It's a great question, and I would say absolutely. We are starting to see from the natural infection that the antibodies are lasting a long time, sometimes up to six months, but at this point there is no way of saying with certainty the durability of the antibody response. There's absolutely no harm in getting a vaccine, it works out pretty well, you may just get a double shot of immunity that will keep you safe. I'm an advocate of the vaccine even if you've had a prior infection."

Lori in Danbury is a little confused, the last time you were on, you said that even if you get the vaccine, you can still pass the virus to someone else. She's also heard that a few times since. Also, when will you be able to determine when the vaccine helps prevent transmission?

"Another great question. The vaccine is designed to prevent infection, and to keep you safe. At this point, we really don't know enough about it with regards to transmission. There are studies going on and we should have more data on this soon. In the interim period, it's absolutely essential to wear a mask. If you don't, you can still transmit the virus. The vaccine will protect you in 95% of the cases, but we don't know that much yet about transmission of the virus after you have had the vaccine. We still need more data on that, the studies that Moderna and Pfizer did was to see and establish if the vaccine could prevent the disease, but we don't know whether it can prevent transmission, the information is still evolving on that."

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