By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Health officials say it is important to remember there are more contagious variations of COVID-19 spreading.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert, says getting as many vaccinated as possible is critical to try to get ahead of the virus.

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Her message comes as South Beach saw huge crowds and little distancing over the holiday weekend.

Many people seem to be getting more confident now that the vaccine is in circulation. However, experts say this is still not the time to let our guard down, because COVID-19 continues to evolve.

Most recently, scientists have detected the E484K mutation, nicknamed “EEK.”

“Some versions of the UK variant are now also carrying EEK,” Dr. Marty says. “What EEK does is it makes a variant able to escape previous immunity. That’s why we’re concerned.”

Dr. Marty says that means even people who have had the virus can get it again.

“Just today, I’ve been dealing with two patients that have the disease again,” she explains.

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Right now, these reinfections are still a relatively low number of the positive cases.

As far as our current vaccines go, they do still offer at least some protection against the EEK mutation.

“It’s not quite at that same level of efficacy, but it still does help,” she says. “It still helps prevent hospitalization and deaths. It just doesn’t get you to that 95 percent level of efficacy.”

Some may be wondering if they should wait to get the vaccine until it covers more of these strains.

However, Dr. Marty encourages people not to delay getting the vaccine if they are eligible.

“We really need as many people as possible with his higher level of protection to really overcome this particular infection,” she says. “And we can always get a booster later, once we modify the vaccine to cover the additional variants.”

Further, she notes that even if you’ve been vaccinated already, you need to continue social distancing and wearing masks, in order to prevent potential spread. The more it spreads, even by people who may not know they’re carriers, the more the virus has the chance to mutate.

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“We really need to get to a much higher level of immunity in the population to really prevent new bad variants from forming,” Dr. Marty explains.

Karli Barnett