Health officials are urging all eligible Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible while the more contagious and possibly deadly variant takes hold in the US.
The Delta Covid variant was first discovered in India. It's now the dominant variant in the UK. The variant has been called deadlier and more contagious by health experts, and it's already been detected in the US.
Currently, the Delta variant, otherwise known as B.1.617.2, accounts for about 6% of all cases of coronavirus in the US.
In the United Kingdom, the Delta variant makes up about 60% of all cases.
Speaking at a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “In the UK, the Delta variant is rapidly emerging as the dominant variant. It is replacing the B.1.1.7 (strain).” Dr. Fauci continued, “We cannot let that happen in the United States.”
The Delta variant is in Chicago
Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, announced that the Delta variant caused about twelve cases of coronavirus in the city of Chicago.
Though officials are concerned about the Delta variant, currently the other strains of the virus are causing more Covid illnesses in the Chicago area.
What happened in India with the Delta variant?
The Delta variant spread rapidly in India. On Thursday, health officials there announced over 6,000 daily deaths. The highest for any country ever in the world.
Hospitals in India were overrun with Covid patients in April and May. The country ran out of hospital beds and life-saving oxygen. People died in their homes and in hospital parking lots. People were forced to place the bodies of family and loved ones in the Ganges River because crematoriums were overwhelmed.
India has been facing issues rolling out the vaccine to its citizens. Only 5% of the population is currently fully vaccinated. With this unvaccinated population vulnerable to the more transmissible virus, the Delta variant was able to quickly spread across the country.
Are current vaccines effective against the Delta variant?
The good news is, the three approved vaccines in the US seem to be effective against all of the currently circulating virus strains.
Dr. Arwady urged all eligible Chicago residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible, “All three of our existing authorized COVID vaccines in the US continue to be broadly protective against all of the known variants, and so we are doing a lot of monitoring for variants."
According to Dr. Fauci, 'Two weeks after the second dose of the mRNA Pfizer-BioNTech, it was 88 percent effective against the 617, and just like we’ve shown multiple times, over 93 percent effective against the B117."
Fauci continued, "Three weeks after one dose, both vaccines — the AZ and the Pfizer-BioNTech — were only 33 percent effective against symptomatic disease from delta. Clearly important about why a second dose is so important."
Why vaccinations are so critical
University of Chicago infectious disease Doctor Anu Hazra said that fully vaccinated people may have breakthrough cases with the Delta variant, but they are much less deadly.
“In the UK, we have a good amount of evidence to show while there may be vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant, their hospitalizations and deaths remain low to nothing in those folks,” Hazra said.
Dr. Hazra continued, “All three of our existing COVID vaccines in the U.S. continue to be broadly protective against all of the known variants.”
What is the vaccination rate for Illinois?
In Illinois, almost 42% of the population is fully vaccinated, with about 52% of the state partially vaccinated.
President Biden's goal of getting 70% of Americans with at least one dose by July 4th is looking increasingly difficult for the entire country to obtain.
As of today, only 14 states have reached 70% or higher rates among adults, with about 12 more states looking to be on pace to reach the goal soon. Illinois is one of those states on track to reach 70% partially vaccinated adults by the 4th.
For the 70% goal to be reached across the country, 15.5 million unvaccinated American adults would need to get one dose by July 4th. But the pace of vaccinations is now at only 400,000 per day. This is down from the 2 million per day, we saw in the spring.
To find a Covid vaccine near you, you can go to Vaccines.gov to begin your search.