Lake County Health Department testing

Briana Polter, a medic with the U.S. National Guard, gets ready to transfer a COVID-19 test to a cooler in October. 

A new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 first found in the United Kingdom has been identified in Indiana, the state health department announced Monday.

Research to date suggests that although the strain spreads more easily and quickly than other variants, it does not cause more severe infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The variant, called B.1.1.7, prompted Britain's latest nationwide lockdown.

The new strain was identified through testing at the Indiana State Department of Health laboratory and CDC, health officials said.

"It’s common for viruses to mutate, and we are seeing that occur with COVID-19," Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said. "Because this strain of the virus can be transmitted more easily, it’s more important than ever that Hoosiers continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and get vaccinated when they are eligible."

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants commonly occur over time, according to the CDC. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and other countries since the pandemic began.

Research suggests Pfizer's vaccine can protect against the mutation and a separate one identified in South Africa, The Associated Press reported.

The mutation circulating in Britain also has been detected in several other U.S. states, including Texas, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

So far, any Hoosiers 80 years and older are eligible to receive the vaccine, The Times previously reported.

State officials said individuals age 70-79, and then age 60-69, will be next in line.

It's not yet clear exactly when those age groups will be able to be immunized, since it depends on how many doses the state receives from the federal government and how many Hoosiers choose to receive the shot.

On Friday, Indiana's COVID-19 registration website and 211 system was experiencing delays due to a high volume of Hoosiers registering to be immunized.

The site puts visitors into a holding queue when request volumes are high. It's possible users might receive a message error, but officials say the site and 211 system are both working properly.

Anyone experiencing issues should visit the site at a later time, officials said.

Nearly 86,000 Hoosiers age 80 and older had scheduled appointments to receive COVID-19 vaccines as of Sunday.

Times staff writer Dan Carden contributed to this report.

Gallery: COVID-19 vaccine administered at Region hospitals

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