Alabama currently has three confirmed cases of the UK coronavirus variant in both Montgomery and Jefferson County.
So far, none have been confirmed in North Alabama, but Huntsville Hospital said they are not screening patients for any variants.
Down in Birmingham, the Director of UAB's Division of Infectious diseases, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, said she would not be shocked if the South African and Brazil variants also made their way into our state.
"Whether these variants are a concern for the people of Alabama, absolutely," Marrazzo said. "I think anybody who is walking on the Earth should be concerned about these variants."
She said the reason why we have not had more confirmed cases of COVID variants is because of the lack of sampling. Right now, the CDC does not have a set method for screening variants since it's focused on vaccine distribution.
Marrazzo said she does believe it is planning on creating a system in the near future.
"The UK as you know, has a fantastic system of sampling virus in the community and doing sequencing to genetically characterize these viruses," Marrazzo said. "We're not doing that in the United States, by and large, and we're only doing that here because our laboratory at UAB selected patients to take a look."
UAB chose to look at patients that were immunocompromised, failing treatments, or got infected right after receiving the COVID vaccine.
That is when scientists discovered at least three cases last week. Marrazzo believes it was inevitable even with travel restrictions in place.
"You know, at this point, the horse is out of the farm," Marrazzo said.
On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci added the only way to stop these mutations of the virus is to stop the spread.
"Which means that we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we possibly can," Fauci said.
With Alabama falling behind on vaccine rollout, Marrazzo encourages people to stay vigilant until you are able to get the vaccine.
"The implications are the same as for every American, you got to be concerned about it, you gotta do what you can to not get COVID period and you gotta vaccinate as soon as you can," Marrazzo said.
Fortunately, as of right now, it seems COVID treatments are still effective for treating the UK variant, according to Marrazzo. Early research also shows the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are effective against the variants.
Both companies are working to create booster shots for these variants and could start trials as early as March.