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Delta Variant and COVID-19 Vaccines: What to Know

photo of covid 19 virus

Highlights:

  • Study finds two doses needed to block delta variant.
  • 6,000 die from COVID-19 in single day in India.
  • Delta now dominant strain in U.K. 

June 10, 2021 -- As the highly transmissible delta coronavirus variant continues to devastate India and spread to other nations, health experts are reiterating the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine – both doses of the shot, that is.

A study conducted in the United Kingdom that was cited by the Biden administration finds that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine provided about 33% protection against the delta variant, which is officially designated B.1.617.2.

Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, meanwhile, provided about 88% protection. The study is a pre-print and has not yet been peer reviewed. (Click here to learn more about coronavirus variants.)

“If you've gotten your first dose, make sure to get that second dose,” Anthony Fauci, MD, White House medical advisor, said Tuesday, noting that the delta variant accounts for about 6% of new U.S. cases. That number could be higher, however, as the U.S. system for tracking coronavirus variants is lacking. “For those who have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated.”

In Northern Ireland, the gap between the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines is being cut to 8 weeks from 10-12 weeks to offer more protection against the delta variant, the BBC reported.

"It seems this variant can get past our first dose of vaccine," says Queen's University Belfast virologist Connor Bamford, according to the BBC. "So, we need to make sure as many people as possible get their two doses and even think about decreasing the length between dose one and two because that's going to be critical going forward."

The studies have not included the two-shot Moderna vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Fauci, however, told The Washington Post he believes the Moderna’s vaccine would be as effective as the Pfizer shot.

Deaths in India Hit 6,000 in a Day

The delta variant was first detected in India in December 2020 and has now spread to 60 nations, the CDC says. The World Health Organization has designated it the fourth global variant of concern, along with the ones first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

In India, the variant is thought to be behind a second deadly surge of infections.

The COVID-19 death toll in India was more than 6,000 on Thursday, a world record daily high, CNBC reports.

The variant appears to cause alarmingly severe symptoms, scientists say.

Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hearing loss, and joint pain are among the symptoms now being seen in India, according to six doctors treating patients across India, Bloomberg News reports.

Ganesh Manudhane, MD, a cardiologist in Mumbai, India, says some patients develop small blood clots that are so severe they lead to gangrene. Manudhane says he has treated eight patients for blood clots during the past 2 months and two required amputations of fingers or a foot.

Indian doctors also report that COVID-19 is now affecting more young people who haven’t been hospitalized and infecting whole families at the same time, rather than just individuals.

India is second in the world with the most reported cases of COVID-19 at 29 million, behind the U.S. at 33.4 million. India is third in the world in COVID-19-related deaths at 355,000, behind the U.S. and Brazil with 598,000 and 479,000, respectively.

Delta Now the U.K.’s Dominant Strain

Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, told a Parliament committee on Thursday that the delta variant is now responsible for 91% of the new cases in the United Kingdom, according to The Evening Standard.

It’s now the dominant strain in the U.K., replacing B.1.1.1.7, now known as the alpha strain, which caused a surge last fall.

The Evening Standard also quoted a professor as saying the variant may be 60% more transmissible than the alpha variant. Speaking earlier in the week, however, Hancock estimated it may be 40% more transmissible.

The rise of the variant has British officials rethinking a further loosening of restrictions planned for June 21.

WebMD Health News

Sources

The Washington Post: “Delta variant accounts for 6 percent of new U.S. coronavirus infections.”

MedRxiv: “Effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against the B.1.617.2 variant.”

BBC: “Delta variant: NI reduces time between Covid-19 vaccine doses.”

CNBC: “India reports more than 6,000 daily Covid deaths — highest ever in the world.”

Bloomberg: “Gangrene, Hearing Loss Show Delta Variant May Be More Severe.”

Evening Standard: "UK Covid LIVE: Delta variant responsible for 91% of new cases, says Matt Hancock as infections double in a week.”

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