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Delta COVID Variant Could Take Over in US If People Don’t Get Shots

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  • Dr. Fauci said Tuesday that the highly infectious Delta variant, first found in India, could take over in the US.
  • In the UK the Delta variant is dominant. “We cannot let that happen in the United States,” he said.
  • Fauci said getting two doses of COVID-19 vaccine would stop the Delta variant from spreading.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India could become the dominant strain in the US if people don’t get fully vaccinated, the US’s top doctor has warned.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said Tuesday that in the UK, the Delta variant had rapidly emerged as the dominant variant, replacing the Alpha variant

“We cannot let that happen in the United States,” Fauci said during a White House press briefing. 

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

The Delta variant is thought to have caused record-breaking infection numbers in India, pushing its health system to near-collapse.

The Delta variant accounts for more than 6% of sequenced tests in the US and 60% of infections in the UK, Fauci said. The actual figures could be higher, as not every test is sequenced. The highest rates of transmission in the UK are people aged between 12 and 22, he said.

Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated to stop the Delta variant spreading across the country. 

“Particularly if you had that first dose, make sure you get that second dose. If not, please get vaccinated,” Fauci said in the briefing.

The Alpha variant, first identified in the UK, is currently the most common virus strain in the US.

The Delta variant is at least as infectious as the Alpha variant, and has now spread to more than 60 countries. It also has extra mutations that means it may escape the antibody response, so vaccines offer less protection against it when just one dose is given.

A UK-based study posted on May 24 found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was 88% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant after two doses, but 33% effective after a single dose.

Another lab-based study from the UK posted Thursday found that the antibody response, a part of the immune system that fights the virus, was “significantly lower” against the Delta variant compared to the Alpha variant after one dose.

The Biden Administration is trying to give more than 75% of the US population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4 to try to stop another surge in infections. So far, more than 51% of Americans have had at least one dose, and more than 42% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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