Doctors worry that more people traveling could mean a greater spread of COVID variants.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Doctors say we're in a race against time as more travelers hop on planes, and many still are not vaccinated. "Everywhere we go, we take variants with us," said Dr. Shad Marvasti, associate director of public health and prevention at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. "If anyone is infected with the variant in New York and the Midwest, any other part of the world, and they're coming to Phoenix, Sky Harbor, they're bringing the variant with them."

As dozens of people picked up luggage at Sky Harbor's baggage claim Tuesday, some travelers felt nervous about crowds and COVID-19, while other have no worries. "I still think it's kind of scary because we don't have a precedence," said Susan Luch, a vaccinated traveler from Michigan. "It just seems like a really bad flu, and people can die from a really bad flu, so I don't see a reason to get vaccinated," said Theresa Diaz, a traveler from Chandler.

Numbers from the TSA show checkpoints saw close to a million and a half travelers Monday, more than nine times what we saw on that date last year. "We're basically a breeding ground for bringing in new variants here, and we just have to hope more people get vaccinated quickly enough that we're able to be protected against the variants before one develops that evades the vaccines," said Marvasti.

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He says COVID-19 strains from several places found their way onto a list as "variants of concern" or "variants of interest." "We haven't been testing for variants enough, so even though they are among us, we may not know to what extent they are," said Marvasti.

Dr. Shad Marvasti

"We're basically tempting fate," said Marvasti.

That's a big reason why he wants everyone to get the vaccine ASAP. Marvasti says the vaccine and antibodies might not be as effective against some variants. He does not want unvaccinated travelers to spread more cases. "It is worrying, and we're basically tempting fate," said Marvasti. "I would be afraid to travel if I didn't have the vaccines," said Luch.


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