Dr. Bob Wachter, University of California San Francisco: “If you’re not vaccinated: I’d be afraid,” he wrote. “Maybe even very afraid.”
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“A coronavirus variant that was first identified in India is causing growing concern in the U.S., leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to raise its status to a “variant of concern.”
While data shows vaccines are still effective against the variant, referred to as delta, there is still worry that the variant could become the dominant strain circulating in the U.S. and spread among unvaccinated populations.
New research suggests that the delta variant nearly doubles the risk of hospitalization compared to the strain that was previously dominant in the U.K., referred to as alpha. The Scottish study also found that two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provide protection against the delta variant.
“This is a situation, the way it was in England, where they had [alpha] dominant, and then [delta] took over. We cannot let that happen in the United States,” leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said at a recent press conference.
Alpha became the main strain circulating in the U.S. in the spring, but experts are concerned that the delta variant could soon overtake it. It makes up nearly 10% of U.S. infections, according to the CDC.
The agency changed delta’s classification this week to a “variant of concern,” saying that there is “mounting evidence that the Delta variant spreads more easily and causes more severe cases when compared to other variants, including B.1.1.7 (Alpha).” The World Health Organization updated its status for delta last month…
With just under 44% of the U.S. population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, experts fear there is plenty of opportunity for the variant to spread.
Fauci said that the spread of the delta variant in the U.K. is peaking in 12-20-year-olds, adding that this age group is the main group the administration is concerned about getting vaccinated in the U.S. Less than 62% of the population 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to CDC data.
The concern is that with the majority of the U.S. still vulnerable to coronavirus infection, the delta variant could pose an even greater threat to this population than the original strain.
Infections in many communities with low vaccination rates are starting to increase, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
States with the lowest vaccination rates include Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, according to CDC data.
States with low vaccination rates could see summer surges “if the unvaccinated continue to behave as though they’re vaccinated,” Michael Saag, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told The Washington Post.” (A)
“The delta variant, first identified in India, is believed to be about 60 percent more transmissible than a previous variant known as alpha, according to British researcher Neil Ferguson. The delta variant has become dominant in the United Kingdom.
Health experts also say the delta variant could cause more severe disease and an increased risk of hospitalization.
“This change is based on mounting evidence that the Delta variant spreads more easily and causes more severe cases when compared to other variants, including B.1.1.7 (Alpha),” a CDC spokesperson said. “Two doses of the mRNA vaccine are effective against this variant and other variants currently circulating in the United States.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both mRNA vaccines, are about 88 percent effective against the delta variant after two shots.” (B)
“Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that a coronavirus strain known as the Delta variant is likely to become the dominant source of new infections in the U.S. and could lead to new outbreaks in the fall, with unvaccinated Americans being most at risk.
“Right now, in the United States, it’s about 10% of infections. It’s doubling every two weeks,” Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation.” “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to see a sharp uptick in infections, but it does mean that this is going to take over. And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall.”
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first discovered in India and is one of three related strains. It has become infamous for its ability to outpace and replicate quicker than other variants in its lineage.
Gottlieb says the Delta strain is going to continue to spread, citing new data from prominent British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who told reporters last week that the variant is about 60% more transmissible than the original B.1.1.7 variant first found in the United Kingdom.
However, Gottlieb said the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. and overseas appear to be effective at containing the Delta variant, highlighting the importance of the public vaccination campaign…
Gottlieb said the risk of new outbreaks is most pronounced in the parts of the country that have low vaccination rates.
“I think in parts of the country where you have less vaccination, particularly in parts of the South, where you have some cities where vaccination rates are low, there’s a risk that you could see outbreaks with this new variant,” he said.” (C)
“I’m concerned about the Delta variant,” Jha wrote on Twitter. “Why? Most contagious variant yet. Wreaked havoc in India. Spiking cases in UK. Growing rapidly in the US.”
The dean of the Brown University School of Public Health said getting vaccinated is key to protecting against the strain.
“Help an unvaccinated friend get the shot,” he said.
Jha is not the only public health leader concerned about the delta strain.
Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California San Francisco, laid out in a lengthy Twitter thread why the variant is making him “nervous” and the argument for why more people should be taking the threat it poses seriously.
“If you’re not vaccinated: I’d be afraid,” he wrote. “Maybe even very afraid.”
The doctor pointed out that while some places have vaccination rates topping 70 percent, about 50 percent of the country over the age of 12 remains unvaccinated. In some states, the percentage of eligible, unvaccinated individuals is higher, at about two-thirds.
While vaccinated individuals don’t have to worry about the delta variant, particularly if they live in a community with high levels of vaccinations, unvaccinated individuals are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 if they are exposed, the doctor said.
While the chance of unvaccinated individuals being exposed is lower in communities where more people are vaccinated, Wachter said he is scared about what could happen this fall and winter.
“Reason: Delta,” he wrote.
According to Wachter, the delta variant appears more infectious than the alpha variant or B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the U.K.
“This means the same exposure that a person might have had last year is now about twice as likely to result in Covid,” Wachter said. “Second, it’s looking like it is more serious, though we need more data to be sure. Third — and this is the big one — it does appear to be somewhat immune resistant. Before getting too freaked out about this, it’s worth noting that the data are reassuring, in a way: the efficacy of 2-doses of Pfizer is 88 percent, only a smidge lower than the 95 percent we’re used to, and still great.”
What is concerning, according to the doctor, is that data indicate that the first dose of Pfizer, normally about 80 percent protective, is only about 33 percent protective against the delta variant…
The US has been “lulled by the amazing efficacy of the vaccines” and because previous variants haven’t been “that nasty,” Wachter said.
As it is, the doctor said he is now expecting to see “significant” surges in the fall in populations that have low vaccination rates because of the strain.
COVID-19 is not yesterday’s news, Wachter stressed.
“Delta should ring the alarm & spur action,” he said. “We need FDA to fully authorize our vaccines, to step up research on boosters & faster approvals for kids. We also need outreach to unvaxxed (incl. info on Delta) & vaccine mandates in risky settings (healthcare, nursing homes).” (D)
“I think that with the data we have, there’s a good chance that it could take over the 117 [Alpha strain] as the primary variant just because it’s more infectious,” says Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It’s going to create a real additional challenge.”…
In the U.S., cases of the Delta variant are doubling every two weeks, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former director of the Food and Drug Administration, who spoke to CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It’s essentially taking over,” warned Fauci flatly at a June 8 White House briefing. The answer, he reiterated, is to get people vaccinated—at least up to the 70% level needed to achieve herd immunity.
Osterholm is not optimistic that can happen, given the low rate of vaccination to date, especially in southern and Appalachian states like Georgia, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama. Some of those states—Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, for instance—have seen cases rise in recent weeks, and Osterholm says the situation is particularly worrying in so-called “vaccine deserts” within those states where vaccination rates are even lower. There, it’s possible that Delta transmission could fuel local COVID-19 case spikes that overwhelm the regional medical system.
“We have to be careful not to automatically just assume what’s happened in England will happen here,” he says. Nonetheless, he adds, “The risk is surely greater when you have more unvaccinated people together. I think that as we open up everything we’re kind of back in many ways to where we were back in pre-March 2020.”” (E)
“As the coronavirus surged across the globe, experts have raised concerns that skyrocketing infections would cause mutations that evade current vaccines.
A real world study conducted by Public Health England shows that two doses of the vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations due to the troublesome Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which scientists first detected in India. The variant has become the predominant coronavirus strain in the U.K.
Of those who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 96% avoided hospitalization with no deaths. Of those who received two shots of the AZ vaccine, 92% avoided hospitalization with no deaths.
The study included 14,019 people in England who had contracted the Delta variant of the virus. Of them, 166 were hospitalized from April 12 to June 4.
“It is absolutely vital to get both doses as soon as they are offered to you, to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants,” Mary Ramsay, M.D., the PHE’s chief of immunization said in a statement.
Interestingly, a single shot of the mRNA vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech performed much better (94%) than a single shot of the AZ vaccine (71%) in preventing hospitalization.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on CBS on Tuesday that once variants started emerging, his company responded by testing its vaccine against them.
“I feel quite comfortable that we cover it,” Bourla said of the threat from the Delta strain. “We will not need a special vaccine for it. The current vaccine should cover it.”
Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease was significantly lower. AZ’s shots, for example, provided 64% protection against symptoms from the Delta variant.” (F)
“According to a White House press briefing, the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant now accounts for over 6% of sequenced cases in the US. The question is now how to contain it. Given that this variant seems to have increased transmissibility and that vaccines have relatively poor effectiveness after one dose, but strong effectiveness after two doses, it poses special challenges and I propose some mid-course adjustments to address them.
First, national policy goals should no longer focus on the percentage of people who have received at least one vaccination shot, but rather the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated. This may seem like a subtle difference but it is key when evaluating the level of immunity against the Delta variant…
Second, the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people regarding mask usage and safety precautions focuses on “fully vaccinated” vs “unvaccinated” persons. (You likely remember the popular infographic from the CDC that illustrates safe practices for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.) This tends to leave the role of partially vaccinated persons a bit uncertain…
Third, given the transmissibility of the Delta variant, there should be an expanded and urgent campaign to encourage mask use and social distancing among partially and unvaccinated persons, while encouraging vaccinations for those who have not yet received them…
Fourth, we should not characterize safety precautions like mask usage as practices from which we should liberate ourselves. Recently, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people are so well protected against Covid-19 that they no longer need to mask and social distance. But populations such as immunocompromised persons, children who cannot yet be vaccinated, and partially or unvaccinated people should still be wearing masks. And if Delta or other emergent variants start to pose greater challenges even for some fully vaccinated people, then perhaps they, too, may prudently temporarily wear masks…
The US is making important progress in reducing cases, hospitalizations and deaths, thanks in large part to the outstanding vaccines we are fortunate to have in excess (especially when so many across the globe are in desperate need of vaccine supply), but we must keep up this work as there are still over 300 Covid-19-related deaths in the US a day, according to data from the CDC.
Further, unfortunately, vaccine access is disproportionately available across communities and the percentage of Black and Hispanic populations vaccinated is still less than that of other communities. For all of these reasons, we must urgently pivot our policy, programmatic and communication efforts to address the novel challenges now posed by the Covid-19 Delta variant before it becomes even more widespread. There is no time to lose.” (G)
“The new Delta variant of COVID-19 first discovered in India and responsible for India’s outbreak is growing across the U.S. and Texas…
Texas vaccinations have slowed, though, with 46% of eligible Texans fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country. The U.S. is now unlikely at its current pace to meet President Biden’s goal of 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4.
“I think that there is some fear among people getting the vaccine and that concerns me,” Sims said.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky called the variant an opportunist.
“Communities that are not well-vaccinated, that haven’t hit vaccination targets that we’re looking for, are those that are going to be most at risk in the future,” she said.
The weekly average of COVID hospitalizations in Texas has gone up four days in a row, which hasn’t happened since mid-April. The current hospitalization level, 1,571 patients, is still far below the state’s peak, but Sims says the deadly winter the state and country just experienced should be a lesson to not wait until the spread gets worse.
“I don’t want our country or state or city to go through that again,” he said. “The variant is capable of doing that and we have the tools to prevent it and should exercise those tools.”” (H)
“New York is lifting all state-mandated coronavirus restrictions after reporting that 70% of the state’s adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday.
“It is an important milestone, and we’re going to keep pushing to do more,” Cuomo told a news conference, adding that the state would continue to encourage more New Yorkers to get vaccinated.
Restrictions across commercial and social settings will be lifted immediately. Cuomo said some limitations based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would remain in place, with mitigation measures still required in public transit and healthcare settings…
Most U.S. states have moved to ease or lift coronavirus restrictions as the virus abates and vaccinations progress.
New York joined California, where restrictions including physical distancing, mask requirements and capacity limits for restaurants, stores and other businesses that cater to consumers ended on Tuesday. “ (I)
- A.Worries Mount in U.S. Over Coronavirus Delta Strain, Now a ‘Variant of Concern’, By Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder, https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2021-06-15/worries-mount-in-us-over-coronavirus-delta-strain-now-a-variant-of-concern
- B.CDC labels highly transmissible delta strain a COVID-19 ‘variant of concern’, BY PETER SULLIVAN, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/558531-cdc-labels-highly-transmissible-delta-strain-as-covid-19-variant-of-concern
- C.Gottlieb says Delta virus variant likely to become dominant U.S. strain, BY KIMANI HAYES, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-19-delta-varient-dominant-strain-likely/
- D.Ashish Jha is ‘concerned’ about the delta variant in the U.S. Here’s why., By Dialynn Dwyer, https://www.boston.com/news/coronavirus/2021/06/14/covid-delta-variant-ashish-jha/
- E.The Delta Variant Could Soon Become the Dominant COVID-19 Strain. Here’s What You Need to Know, BY ALEJANDRO DE LA GARZA AND JEFFREY KLUGER, https://time.com/6073345/delta-variant-covid-19/
- F.Two shots of Pfizer, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines effective against Delta variant: study, by Kevin Dunleavy, https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/two-shots-pfizer-astrazeneca-vaccine-effective-against-delta-variant-says-u-k-real-world
- G.The Covid-19 Delta variant poses a threat to our return to ‘normal’, by David Holtgrave, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/10/opinions/covid-19-delta-variant-us-holtgrave/index.html
- H. Texas COVID hospitalizations increase as Delta variant spreads and vaccination rate remains flat, by William Joy, https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/texas-covid-hospitalizations-delta-variant/287-5c57394a-4972-4626-90b3-1526e087a1cc
- I.New York governor lifts remaining COVID-19 restrictions, calls it a ‘momentous day’, by Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/new-york-governor-lifts-remaining-covid-19-restrictions-2021-06-15/