The Delta variant is here. And how is it continues to spread throughout the world, the media has been in a frenzy. Last week, for example, reports circulated about vaccinated people in Israel who got infected with the new variant. We saw headlines about the increase in COVID cases powered by Delta in the UK, and news from six vaccinated people dying of COVID in the Seychelles. Meanwhile, the Angels and the World Health Organization are advising vaccinates to revert to indoor masking.
The news, frankly, is scary and confusing. To make matters worse, anti-vaccine groups, always opportunistic, have begun to create confusion for their own benefit. Some of their claims are totally wrong: A bit of misinformation circulating is that people who are vaccinated are at a higher risk of dying from COVID caused by the Delta variant, an unsubstantiated claim that has been discredited.
Other anti-vaccine activists are exploiting statistics without meaningful context. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vaccine group, Children’s Health Defense, published an article on the recent CDC data showing that around 4,115 fully vaccinated American patients who tested positive for COVID had been hospitalized or died as of June 21. I did not do it They say is that more than 150 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated at that time, which makes these “revolutionary infections” very very weird. He also failed to mention that experts say breakthrough infections are expected and that the data indicates that most breakthrough cases are asymptomatic or mild.
To set the record straight and hopefully relieve some of your stress, I chose the brains of three experts: Dr. Shira Shafir, professor and epidemiologist of infectious diseases at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital.
While the Delta variant is worth taking seriously, spreads more easily that the “ancestral strain” of SARS-CoV-2; they told me that not enough evidence which is more deadly than other strains. Crucially, they emphasized that vaccines are proving to be powerful tools against Delta and other variants of this virus. And those stories about progressive infections? They’re not as disastrous as the headlines might suggest (read on, more on that below).
Here are some takeaways from our conversations.
At this time, the CDC estimates that the Delta variant represents approximately 25 percent New COVID Cases in the US There are some places in the country where infections are increasing, but overall, “most of our hospitalizations in the United States they stay low,”Gandhi says, and they continue to decline. “We are in our fewer deathsFortunately, we’ve ever had. ”You can thank vaccines for that.
So far, the data also indicate that breakthrough infections, when they do occur, tend to be mild or asymptomatic. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of MedicineFor example, researchers followed nearly 4,000 frontline workers for four months starting in late 2020. In that time, 204 workers received COVID, only five of whom were fully vaccinated. (Eleven people who tested positive were partially vaccinated, 156 were unvaccinated, and 32 had unknown vaccination status.) And for the few vaccinated workers who received COVID, their infections were less severe than those of the unvaccinated. “It shows that if you have a progressive infection after full vaccination or even partial vaccination,” says Gandhi, “that progressive infection is really mild.”
For the Delta variant specifically, we are seeing a similar trend: vaccines prevent the worst infections. In the UK, where an estimated 95 percent of infections are with the Delta variant, hospitalizations have also stayed flat“Despite the increase in cases.” That is good news, Says Gandhi, because it means that the vaccine prevents serious diseases. “That proves the rule that vaccines work,” he says. Similarly, in Israel, he notes, there have been zero deaths from COVID in the last week. And preliminary data from Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, Y Modern indicate that their vaccines provide protection against the Delta variant.
As the Delta variant spreads, it’s reasonable to expect that places where people don’t get vaccinated will experience the worst outbreaks, experts say.
“It’s already starting” in the Ozarks, Hotez says. In southern Missouri, for example, there is a “perfect storm” of low vaccination rates and a high percentage of the Delta variant. He predicts we’ll see an increase in cases in the South this summer, likely in red states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, with adult vaccination rates currently 45 percent or less. “It will be of a different character,” he says, “because more older adults will be vaccinated. Then the deaths won’t be that high. But ”, he predicts,“ we will see many cases and many hospitalizations ”. (And, as Hotez points out in a recent article in the Daily beast, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine. “For that reason,” he writes, “the rising delta in the Ozark and southern states this summer could make life more complicated for the entire country when it comes to opening schools in August and other efforts to get back to life. pre-pandemic normality “. )
Without effective messages from the right, he says, vaccination rates in conservative areas are likely to remain low. And if the Delta variant reaches those communities, he warns, it could get ugly. “What will happen basically [is] Anyone who has not been vaccinated at this time and does not plan to be vaccinated, or who has not been infected and recovered, is going to contract Delta variant COVID. “
Again, so far, the data we have suggests that our vaccines are highly protective against the Delta variant and other variants of concern. If the vaccine is shown to be less effective against this variant, booster shots may be an option to, well, boost our immunity. Pfizer-BioNTech, Modern, Y Johnson and Johnson they are currently conducting clinical trials on the benefit of booster vaccines.
In short, we do not know if booster injections will be recommended.
Another question is, if we need boosters, will we need specific injections of variants or will another dose of the same vaccine suffice? That’s something scientists are still investigating, Hotez says.
To state the obvious, our best option to combat the Delta variant is our arsenal of available vaccines. As Gandhi points out, it is “quite surprising” that “months after mass vaccination, we still have 750,000 to one million Americans still get vaccinated every day. “
While there are many reasons to be optimistic, experts say that we are not out of the woods just yet. “Even if we are fully vaccinated and all of our lives are starting to get back to normal,” says Shafir, “COVID-19 is still a pandemic.” To see our way through this, he says, we must minimize the possibility of transmission “as much as possible.” The fewer cases there are, the less chance the virus has to evolve.
As she says, “The pandemic doesn’t end anywhere until the pandemic ends everywhere.”