Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing about the federal response to the coronavirus on Capitol Hill March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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U.S. health officials are making efforts to get more Americans vaccinated to prevent the Delta variant, first identified in India, from spreading to the United States.
The variant has become the dominant variety in the UK, accounting for an estimated 60% of new cases. It’s now more common than the Alpha strain, formerly known as the B.1.1.7 strain and first identified in the UK, and transmission peaks in people between the ages of 12 and 20, said Dr. Anthony Fauci., White House chief medical officer, said at a news conference Tuesday.
In the US, the delta variant makes up more than 6% of the cases that scientists have been able to sequence, he said. The real number is likely higher since the US does the genetic sequence on a fraction of the time.
“In the UK, the Delta variant is quickly becoming the dominant variant … It replaces the B.1.1.7,” said Fauci. “We cannot allow that in the USA.”
President Joe Biden’s goal is to have at least one vaccination of 70% of all US adults by July 4th. It’s a bit of a chore, less than four weeks before it starts and 63.7% of the adult population got their first vaccination, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 53% of all adults in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
First discovered in October, the Delta variant has spread to at least 62 countries, the World Health Organization announced last week.
“We continue to see significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant,” the WHO said last week of the Delta strain, noting that further studies were a high priority.
The Delta Tribe has India in a stranglehold, causing a surge in infections and deaths that has clogged hospital systems. The Indian government announced Monday that the country will shortly begin making Covid-19 vaccines available to all adults in the country free of charge.
Fauci also said the Delta variant is more contagious and could be associated with a higher risk of hospitalization than the original “wild-type” Covid-19 strain.
Studies also show that two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca shots are effective against the Delta strain, according to the National Institutes of Health.
According to NIH data, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were found to be 88% effective against the Delta variant, while two doses of the AstraZeneca shot were 60% effective against the strain.
Fauci emphasized the importance of receiving two doses after NIH studies showed that three weeks after administration, just one dose of either vaccine provided only 33% effectiveness against the Delta variant.