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COVID-19 Delta Variant: Vaccine Is the Only Way Out, Doctor Warns

Those vaccinated might need to mask up and social distance again. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

A new deadly COVID-19 strain known as the delta variant is quickly spreading in several U.S. states. And the only way to avoid a new wave of infections and deaths is to get as many people vaccinated as possible, the CDC says.

The new strain, officially named B.1.617.2, was first spotted in India and is responsible for the country’s surging cases and deaths since April. It recently became dominant in the U.K., and health officials fear that the U.S. will be the next.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday declared the delta strain “a variant of concern,” which is defined as a variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease, and reduced protection from antibodies generated from a previous infection or vaccination.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday that the delta variant will become the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S. and that the only way to save lives is to speed up vaccination campaign.

“As worrisome as this delta strain is with regard to its hyper transmissibility, our vaccines work,” Walensky told ABC.

In a separate interview with CNN on Friday, Walensky stressed the importance of getting the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. “After two doses—reminding you, get your second dose—after two doses, you are protected from that Delta variant,” she said. “And studies are underway now to examine the Johnson & Johnson. We just don’t have as much data with that vaccine.”

It’s not entirely clear yet how well every current vaccine works against the delta variant for lack of clinical data. But existing studies suggest that authorized vaccines provide decent protection. A recent study done by Public Health England found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the variant two weeks after the second dose. The AstraZeneca vaccine was 60 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the same variant, another study found.

“Vaccines are our only way out of this,” Paul Offit, a key member of the FDA Vaccines Advisory Committee, told CNN on Friday. “Unless we vaccinate a significant percentage of the population before winter hits, you’re going to see more spread and the creation of more variants, which will only make this task more difficult.”
Vaccination progress has been slowing down in the U.S. According to the CDC, only 53 percent of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The Biden administration has set a goal to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population, a widely adopted standard for herd immunity, by the July 4 weekend.

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