For many, the COVID-19 vaccine serves as the light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic. For others, it may seem like a daunting addition to already challenging times — especially as new variants of the virus begin to emerge.

In January, Gov. Jared Polis announced that B.1.1.7, a new variant of COVID-19, was found in Colorado. Thankfully, doctors have confidence that the vaccine will be able to tackle these unfamiliar strains.

"What we can see from the underlying science of developing the vaccine in the first place is that it kills not only SARS-CoV-2, but it appears to also kill these minor variations around it," said Dr. Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., Chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) and Chair of the Department of Health Policy & Management in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, in our "Tuned In to NoCo" interview. "But I think the variants are an important reminder to everybody out there that we need to continue to do what works at preventing the spread of this virus."

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fully-vaccinated people can now gather indoors without masks, but Thorpe believes that until around 80 to 90% of the population is vaccinated, COVID-19 precautions — including masking up, handwashing, and social distancing — are imperative.

While these caveats may not evoke feelings of hope surrounding the vaccine, he asserts that its benefits outweigh the risks, noting that the vaccinations prevent serious complications with only mild, if any, side effects.

"The evidence that we have to date on roughly the 10% of the population that has been fully vaccinated is very positive," said Thorpe. "I would encourage everybody to get it...if you don't get the vaccine and you get COVID and you transmit it to somebody else, well, that would be unfortunate. That's something that we can prevent by getting the vaccine."

Learn more about the vaccine and its effect on COVID-19 variants by listening to the full "Tuned In to NoCo" interview with Dr. Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., below.

The NoCo Virus Tracker articles are made possible by our partners, the Keep NoCo Open campaign that reminds citizens to wear a mask, wash your hands, physically distance and support local as Northern Colorado recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccine Locations in Fort Collins