SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern

Yonsei Med J. 2021 Nov;62(11):961-968. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2021.62.11.961.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic first began in December 2019, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus has continuously evolved with many variants emerging across the world. These variants are categorized as the variant of interest (VOI), variant of concern (VOC), and variant under monitoring (VUM). As of September 15, 2021, there are four SARS-CoV-2 lineages designated as the VOC (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta variants). VOCs have increased transmissibility compared to the original virus, and have the potential for increasing disease severity. In addition, VOCs exhibit decreased susceptibility to vaccine-induced and infection-induced immune responses, and thus possess the ability to reinfect previously infected and recovered individuals. Given their ability to evade immune responses, VOC are less susceptible to monoclonal antibody treatments. VOCs can also impact the effectiveness of mRNA and adenovirus vector vaccines, although the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are still effective in preventing infection and severe disease. Current measures to reduce transmission as well as efforts to monitor and understand the impact of variants should be continued. Here, we review the molecular features, epidemiology, impact on transmissibility, disease severity, and vaccine effectiveness of VOCs.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; alpha variant; delta variant; vaccine; variant; variant of concern.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral Vaccines*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Viral Vaccines