White House senior medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the highly contagious Delta variant is the “greatest threat” to the nation’s attempt to eradicate Covid-19.
Delta, which was first identified in India, now accounts for about 20% of all new cases in the United States, up from 10% about two weeks ago, Fauci said during a White House press conference on the pandemic.
He said Delta appears to be “following the same pattern” as Alpha, the variant first found in the UK, with infections doubling in the US about every two weeks.
“Similar to the UK, the Delta variant is currently the biggest threat in the US to our attempt to eliminate Covid-19,” he said.
Fauci’s comments come after CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday urged Americans to get vaccinated against Covid and said she expected Delta to become the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States
Studies suggest that it is about 60% more transmissible than alpha, which was more contagious than the original strain that emerged from Wuhan, China, in late 2019
“As worrying as this Delta strain is about its hypertransmittance, our vaccines are working,” Walensky told ABC’s Good Morning America. If you get vaccinated, “you will be protected against this Delta variant,” she added.
In the UK, the Delta variety recently became the dominant variety there, surpassing Alpha, which was first discovered in the country last fall. The Delta variant now accounts for more than 60% of new cases in the UK
Health officials say there are reports that the Delta variant also causes more severe symptoms, but that more research is needed to confirm these conclusions. However, there is evidence that the Delta strain may cause different symptoms than other variants.
Fauci said Tuesday the US had “the tools” to defeat the variant and urged more Americans to get fully vaccinated against Covid and “destroy the outbreak.”
The Biden administration said Tuesday that it is unlikely to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of American adults to receive one or more vaccinations by July 4th.
“In this case, two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, the effectiveness of the vaccines was 88% effective against Delta and 93% effective against Alpha when it comes to symptomatic diseases,” said Fauci, citing a study.
The World Health Organization said Friday that Delta is becoming the predominant variant of the disease worldwide.
On Monday, WHO officials warned that the variant was the fastest and strongest coronavirus strain to date and that it would “pick up” the most vulnerable people, especially in places with low Covid-19 vaccination rates.
It has the potential to be “more deadly because it is more efficient in the way it is transmitted between people, and it will eventually find those at risk who will become seriously ill, hospitalized and possibly die”, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Emergency Health Program, said during a news conference.
Delta has now spread to 92 countries, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director for Covid, on Monday. She said, “Unfortunately, we still don’t have the vaccines in the right places to protect people’s lives.”
WHO has urged wealthy nations, including the US, to donate cans. The Biden government detailed early Monday where it will be sending 55 million doses of vaccine, most of which will be distributed through COVAX, the WHO-supported immunization program.
“These vaccines are highly effective against serious illness and death. That is what they are intended for and that is what they must be used for,” said Van Kerkhove. “This is what COVAX and WHO and all of our partners have worked to ensure that these vaccines reach the most vulnerable people.”