The coronavirus delta variant, which has devastated India and forced the UK to delay lifting remaining coronavirus restrictions, is now on the rise in the US. What that means for you will depend on whether you’ve been fully vaccinated and where you live.
Experts say we may be on the cusp of seeing two COVID “states” emerge: one with high rates of vaccination where the delta variant of the coronavirus poses little threat, and one with low levels of vaccination that will be susceptible to deadly renewed mutations. This divide is driven in large part by partisan politics, with vaccination rates highest in liberal cities and lowest in conservative strongholds across the Deep South and in rural areas across the country.
“I call it two COVID states,” Peter Hotez, a vaccine researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told BuzzFeed News.
Wherever vaccination rates are low, the virus will continue to spread and mutate, increasing the risk of new, more dangerous variants emerging. With vaccination in most parts of the world far behind the United States, the delta variant is likely to follow others.
The delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first discovered in India in late 2020 and is believed to have propelled that country. A devastating surge in COVID-19which started in March. It has since spread to More than 80 countries around the world, including the United States — where the CDC on Tuesday officially classified it as “alternative to anxiety. “
Data from Public Health England indicate that the delta variable lies between 40% and 60% more portable From the alpha variant, also known as B.1.1.7. It was first identified in the UK and is now the most common variant in the US, which is in turn more transmissible than earlier forms of the coronavirus.
So far, it appears that vaccines are available Offer good protection against most variants. But the delta variant appears to be able to evade partial immunity to the coronavirus. Although people who have been fully vaccinated are still well protected, those who have received only one injection of a two-dose vaccine remain at greater risk.
a Study in the UK It was found that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective against the development of symptomatic COVID from the delta variant – not significantly different from the 93% efficacy observed against the alpha variant. But after just one dose, the vaccine was only 33% effective against the delta variant, compared to more than 50% against the alpha. It is not clear how effective natural immunity from a previous infection is in protecting people from the delta variant.
There are also hints that the delta variant may cause more serious illness. a study cases in scotland The publication this week found that the risk of hospitalization with the delta variant nearly doubled compared to people with the alpha variant.
“This is a bad virus,” John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, told BuzzFeed News.
With variable delta now thought to calculate For more than 90% of new infections in the UK, and with cases rising and hospitalizations again in hospital, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that he would delay The removal of the remaining coronavirus restrictions in England, which was due to take place on June 21, by at least four weeks. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have made their own health rules, but have taken similar steps.)
In the United States, the delta variant appears to be spreading more quickly than the alpha variant is at a similar stage in its rise to dominance, according to data from outbreak, a coronavirus tracking project run by researchers at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.
It’s unclear whether Delta will dominate as quickly and completely as it did in the UK, where it replaced an almost entirely driven outbreak with an alpha formula. In the United States, more competing variants are circulating, making it difficult to predict what will happen, Bette Korber, a computational biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told BuzzFeed News. But she expects Delta to become the most popular alternative in the United States within weeks. “It’s moving really fast,” Korber said.
Health experts say the United States could largely protect itself against the delta variant by rapidly increasing vaccination rates, which it has slowed down in recent months. But they fear that some people who haven’t yet been vaccinated might look at what happened with the alpha variant and decide they can wait and watch.
In late March, as COVID escalated in Michigan and cases began to rise nationwide, CDC Director Rochelle Wallinsky described her sense of “imminent deathAbout a fourth wave of coronavirus across the United States driven by an alpha strain. But the increase turned out to be small and short-lived.
Given the expected rapidity of delta-variable spread, and the fact that a single dose of the vaccine is not sufficient to provide good protection, deciding to postpone vaccination is risky. “Some of these people are going to get a nasty surprise,” Bob Wachter, chief of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told BuzzFeed News.
Low vaccine uptake across the south and in rural areas across the country makes these areas more susceptible to the delta variant. “I think there’s a good chance that in the winter or fall there will be significant increases and they will almost exclusively hit people who are not immunized and hit in areas with lower rates of vaccine uptake,” Wachter said.
But it can be hard to convince people who have so far refused to vaccinate, given that suspicions appear to be driven in large part by entrenched political loyalties. according to CBS News/YouGov Poll Published this week, only 52% of Republicans said they had received a partial or total vaccination, and 29% said they did not intend to get one. Among Democrats, 77% said they had already been vaccinated, and only 5% said they did not intend to get vaccinated.
County-wide vaccine rollout data also shows a strong correlation with voting in the 2020 presidential election.
“Somehow we have to break this notion that loyalty to conservatives and the Republican Party has to do with not being vaccinated,” Hotez said. “It’s really worrying.”