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Variant First Detected in Brazil Could Reinfect People Recovering from COVID-19

Demonstrators hold Portuguese messages like "Saving jobs is also saving lives" outside a city government office to protest a two-week-long lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Brasilia, Brazil, March 1, 2021.

Scientists are warning that a variant of the novel coronavirus that was first detected in Brazil could reinfect people already recovering from COVID-19.

The P.1 variant has spread to more than 20 countries since it was first detected last November in the Amazonian region city of Manaus. A joint study by scientists in Britain and Brazil says the variant is 1.4 to 2.4 times more transmissible than the original version of the coronavirus.

Manaus was struck by an initial wave of COVID-19 infections in April and May of last year. According to researchers, by October almost 80% of recovering coronavirus patients should have developed antibodies that would have made them immune to the virus.

But 25% to 61% of those who had recovered from a first bout of COVID-19 were reinfected with the P.1 variant, according to the study, which has not been peer-reviewed.

Scientists are worried that new and more infectious variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be resistant to vaccine now being distributed around the world. But Nuno Faria, a virologist at Imperial College London who co-led the study, says it is too early to determine if the situation in Brazil with the P.1 variant will also occur elsewhere.

The release of the study on the P.1 variant coincided with official data from Brazil showing it had recorded its highest single-day number of COVID-19 deaths with 1,641.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened more than 114.8 million people around the globe since it was first detected in central China in late 2019, including 2.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The pandemic has also led to what the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has described as an “education emergency,” with more than 168 million children around the world locked out of the classroom for nearly a year. UNICEF says 98 million children across Latin America and the Caribbean account for the majority of students who have missed in-person learning.

U.S. country music superstar Dolly Parton tried to inject hope and encouragement Tuesday as she was injected with her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. In a short video she posted on Twitter, the 75-year-old singer-songwriter received the vaccine at Vanderbilt University Health Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Before getting the shot, Parton revamped one of her most famous songs, “Jolene,” to encourage viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.