The COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly becoming a arms race between emerging variants of the virus, and at the moment, there is no doubt what the victory is: the Delta variant – formally known as B.1.617 .2 – one of four strains have originally emerged in India. It was just last month that the World Health Organization labeled Delta a “variant of concern” —unit with the Alpha strain, which was born in the United Kingdom; the Beta strain, from South Africa; and the Gamma variety, first seen in Brazil. But Delta soon became the most disturbing of the group.
Health officials are sounding the alarm that Delta threatens to reverse the progress made in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which have recently beaten the retreating pandemic and worsening conditions in countries such as the United States. India, which are still in crisis. Researchers have found that Delta is at least 60% more transmissible in households than the Alpha strain, the dominant variant in the United States, according to Public Health of England.
According to doctors ’accounts on state television in China — they were the first reported in the English media by in New York Time-Delta variant patients have seen symptoms develop more rapidly and grow more severely than those in people infected with other variants. Viral loads escalate even faster and drop more slowly. However, epidemiologists say it may be too early to know for sure if Delta causes more serious diseases, and it is important to recognize that other factors, such as block restrictions and vaccination rates, may also influence the spread of diseases. “I’m careful enough to put too many eggs in the basket of‘ variants make things worse, ’” says Dr. Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It is very convenient for some political leaders to blame variants as an act of God for the political decisions that have led to the situation we are in.”
In the United States, the Delta variant now accounts for about 6% of all cases, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Those numbers are prone to escalation. “I think with the data we have, there’s a good chance we could pick up the 117 [Alpha strain] as the primary variant only because it is more infectious, ”says Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Research and Policy on Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota.“ It will create a real additional challenge. “
À a White House Briefing last week, Fauci noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88% effective in preventing diseases caused by the Delta variant. “The good news is that Delta variants, like other variants, don’t seem to escape the protection of vaccines available in the United States,” says Dr. Gronvall. In addition, the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is authorized for use in the EU but not in the United States, has been shown to be 60% effective against the Delta variant, according to a study published in Nature, although scientists expect even greater protection against hospitalization and death caused by the strain.
But in the meantime, as populations remain significantly unvaccinated, the infectivity of the Delta variant is cause for concern. The UK government had set June 21 as the target date for the country’s reopening, but earlier today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that it would be postponed for at least a month. The extra time will allow at least 10 million more doses of vaccine to be administered, according to UK Health Minister Edward Argar. To date, 62% of the UK population has received at least one dose of vaccine and 44% are fully vaccinated.
But even if 10 million doses are actually administered successfully over the next month, there is no guarantee of advanced infections occurring.
In response to the spread of the Delta variant in the UK, other European nations have imposed additional travel restrictions on visitors to the country.
In China, the Delta crisis is centered around the city of Guangzhou in the southeastern part of the country, where the government has imposed restrictions that have not been seen since the early days of the pandemic. The government administered about 32 million COVID-19 tests in the southeast, including the entire population of 18.7 million people in Guangzhou (the largest city in the region) in an effort to control the fire. The tests in Guangzhou were conducted in just three days from June 5 to 7.
To date, 800 million doses of vaccine have been administered throughout China, according to the Chinese magazine XINHUANET. But this is total doses — not necessarily including second doses, which the widely used Sinovac vaccine requires-And in any case it represents only 57% of the population.
And vaccination numbers are much lower in much of the rest of the world, exposing millions to highly transmissible and potentially more dangerous variants, and creating new opportunities for SARS-CoV-2 to change once and for all. “Every time you give the virus the ability to reproduce, you have the ability to take another variant, which may have different properties that are not to our advantage,” says Dr. Gronvall. “That’s why it’s in our interest to help vaccinate the world.”
In the United States, Delta variant cases double 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“Sunday. “It’s essentially about recovery,” Fauci warned flatly at a June 8 White House briefing. The answer, he said, is to vaccinate people – at least up to the 70% level needed to get the band’s immunity.
Osterholm is not optimistic that this could happen, given the low vaccination rate to date, particularly in the southern and Appalachian states such as Georgia, West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama. Some of these states – Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, for example – have seen growth almost in recent weeks, and Osterholm says the situation is particularly worrying in the so-called “vaccine deserts” in those states where vaccination rates are high. even lower. Here, it is possible that Delta transmission may feed local COVID-19 case peaks that overwhelm the regional medical system.
“We have to be careful not to automatically endure what is happening in England that will happen here,” he says. However, he adds, “The risk is definitely greater when you have more people not vaccinated together. I think when we open it all up, we are a bit of a return in many ways to where we were back before March 2020.”