NORTH CAROLINA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is pushing unvaccinated people to get their vaccines as COVID-19 cases and deaths rise.
What You Need To Know
The CDC changed its recommendations Tuesday, urging everyone to wear masks in public spaces indoors, regardless of their vaccination status and especially in high transmission areas
It is also recommended all children and staff wear masks in school
The CDC's main goal is to push unvaccinated people to get their shots
Health experts say the less people vaccinated, the higher the chances the coronavirus can mutate
Health experts are concerned the current effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine could be compromised if people don't get their shot.
"The worst case scenario would be that a new variant evolves that can overcome the protection that is conferred by the vaccines," Dr. Mark Heise said.
Heise is a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine. He says the COVID vaccines protect against the current variants of the virus, including the delta variant. The worry is if the coronavirus is able to continue to replicate in unvaccinated people, as it replicates it could mutate.
“If a mutation arises that allows the virus to evade the immunity that is elicited by the vaccine, that then is a virus that could really pose a threat to the entire country," Heise said. "So essentially we would go back to where we were before the vaccine. Which given again how far we have come in this entire process, I think that would be a tragedy.”
Heise says the scientific community is seeing new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the delta variant.
"We are also seeing younger, healthier individuals start to be effected by this virus. This virus is clearly more infective. It grows to higher levels than the original virus. Some data I have seen says a thousand times higher level. It's probably causing more disease than the original virus, although we are still collecting data on that," Heise said.
Heise says there are four major variants of the coronavirus; alpha, beta, delta and gamma, but there are additional variants that have started circulating that are still being evaluated.
"My message would certainly be, the vaccines are incredibly safe and they are highly effective," Heise said. "If you are vaccinated, you are protected against severe disease, hospitalization and death. If you are not vaccinated, you are at risk of developing severe disease."
On Tuesday, the CDC updated it's recommendations. It is now urging everyone to wear a mask indoors in public spaces and for kids and staff to wear masks inside K-12 schools as they return to in-person learning.