Worries mount in US over coronavirus Delta strain
Published : Wednesday, 16 June, 2021 at 4:13 PM Count : 536
A coronavirus variant that was first identified in India is causing growing concern in the US, 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 US and spread among unvaccinated populations.
"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.
Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the percentage of delta cases is doubling every two weeks.
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.
But with mask mandates dropped and other mitigation measures being relaxed, the Biden administration is struggling to keep up vaccination rates, relying on other incentives and programs to reach those who have yet to receive the shot.
As the country nears President Joe Biden's July 4 deadline for getting 70% of the adult population at least one shot, it's becoming more clear that several states will fall short of the goal.
"The July 4 goal that President Biden set up is quite frankly not in our sights right now," Keith Reed, deputy health commissioner in Oklahoma, told the Post.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves recently told CNN that the president's goal is "arbitrary, to say the least."
"We've got somewhere between a million or so Mississippians that have natural immunity and because of that there is very very very little virus in our state," he said.
The slowdown in vaccination poses a challenge to Biden's goal but also to reducing the spread of the delta variant.