Background: The emergence of the Brazilian variant of concern, Gamma lineage (P.1), impacted the epidemiological profile of COVID-19 cases due to its higher transmissibility rate and immune evasion ability.
Methods: We sequenced 305 SARS-CoV-2 whole-genomes and performed phylogenetic analyses to identify introduction events and the circulating lineages. Additionally, we use epidemiological data of COVID-19 cases, severe cases, and deaths to measure the impact of vaccination coverage and mortality risk.
Results: Here we show that Gamma introduction in São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil, was followed by the displacement of seven circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants and a rapid increase in prevalence two months after its first detection in January 2021. Moreover, Gamma variant is associated with increased mortality risk and severity of COVID-19 cases in younger age groups, which corresponds to the unvaccinated population at the time.
Conclusions: Our findings highlight the beneficial effects of vaccination indicated by a pronounced reduction of severe cases and deaths in immunized individuals, reinforcing the need for rapid and massive vaccination.
Keywords: Epidemiology; Viral infection.
© The Author(s) 2022.