Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine produced fewer antibodies against Delta compared with other shots in an experiment. Experts say we shouldn’t worry about the results.

covid-19 vaccine card
Gerald McDavitt, 81, a Veteran of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, holds his CDC vaccine card after being inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Janssen Vaccine.

  • In a study, J&J’s vaccine produced fewer antibodies to the Delta variant compared with other shots.
  • The study authors said that the lower antibody response “could result in decreased protection.”
  • But other experts said the COVID-19 lab-based study didn’t represent the real world.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A lab experiment showed Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine produced a weaker antibody response against the Delta variant when compared with Moderna and Pfizer’s double-dose shots – but it will probably still work against the variant in real life, experts say.

New York University researchers drew blood from eight people who received Moderna’s vaccine, nine people who got Pfizer’s, and 10 people that got J&J’s, according to a preprint version of the study posted Tuesday. They compared the antibody response against Delta with the antibody response against the original strain of the coronavirus.

In the Moderna and Pfizer group, the antibody response was three times lower against Delta, on average. For J&J’s shot, it was 5.4 times lower against Delta, the study authors said.

The study authors said that the lower antibody response for J&J’s shot “could result in decreased protection.” More than 9 million Americans have received the vaccine.

The Delta coronavirus variant, which is the most common cause of new infections in the US, is about 50% more infectious than the formerly-dominant Alpha variant, and has mutations that can help it avoid the immune response.

Dr. Ned Landau, who led the experiment, told CNBC that the findings suggested people who got the J&J vaccine “should at least consider” a second dose of the same vaccine, or one from Pfizer or Moderna.

But other experts aren’t convinced about the findings of a small lab study, which hasn’t yet been scrutinized by other experts in a peer review. They say Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could still work against Delta in real life.

Insider’s Hilary Brueck reported Tuesday that fully vaccinated people can get COVID-19 – but if they do, they usually get mild symptoms, or none at all.

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’

Eric Topol, professor of Molecular Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, said on Twitter Tuesday that the antibody response with J&J’s vaccine was above the threshold “for concern.”

“There’s also the T cell response,” he added. The T cell response is another aspect of the immune system – it is harder to study in the lab, but is thought to be crucial to protect against variants. The NYU team didn’t examine this in their study.

Peter Chin-Hong, professor of infectious disease at University of California, San Francisco, told ABC10 News that “you can’t necessarily extrapolate laboratory-based studies to what happens in real life,” citing J&J’s performance against the Beta variant.

The same NYU study showed that the J&J vaccine’s antibody response against Beta variant, first found in South Africa, was 6.5 times lower than against the original variant. But in humans, J&J’s vaccine was 64% effective at preventing moderate to severe disease in its South Africa trials, when 95% infections were caused by the Beta variant.

Real-world data from South Africa, posted by the South African Medical Research Council on July 1, showed that 94% of health workers who were vaccinated with J&J’s shot and then caught COVID-19 only had mild infections.

The company said on July 2 that its COVID-19 vaccine should work against Delta.

Despite this, some experts who received J&J shots have opted to have an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine.

Neither The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Food and Drug Administration recommend that people who received J&J take an extra dose. There isn’t enough data to support the approach, they say.

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A 22% surge in US coronavirus deaths is hitting unvaccinated people hardest. Experts worry about the long-term effects for vaccinated people, too.

us 500,000 covid-19 deaths
El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office staff roll bodies in bags labeled “COVID” from refrigerated trailers into the morgue office on November 23.

  • The US’s daily coronavirus deaths surged 22% in the past week – mostly among unvaccinated Americans.
  • Disease experts worry about breakthrough cases in older people or those who are immunocompromised.
  • Increased transmission could also allow the virus to mutate into a more dangerous strain.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US is far removed from the deadliest point in its coronavirus outbreak: The country reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus deaths in January, compared with less than 275 daily deaths, on average, in the past week.

But average daily deaths surged 22% in the past seven days, following a record low of 30 deaths on July 11. In the past two weeks, average daily deaths rose 33%.

The vast majority these deaths are among unvaccinated Americans: Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC earlier this month that unvaccinated people represented more than 99% of recent coronavirus deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported Friday that more than 97% of people entering hospitals with symptomatic COVID-19 hadn’t received shots.

The US is now dealing with a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing.

“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” Walensky said.

But disease experts worry that allowing the virus to spread among unvaccinated people could give it more opportunities to mutate. That could pose a long-term risk for vaccinated people, too. Already, the Delta variant – now the dominant strain in the US – appears to be more transmissible than any other version of the virus detected so far.

“The worst-case scenario is if Delta mutates into something completely different, a completely different animal, and then our current vaccines are even less effective or ineffective,” Vivek Cherian, an internal-medicine physician in Baltimore, told Insider last month.

Experts also worry that increased transmission could result in more severe breakthrough infections – cases of COVID-19 diagnosed at least two weeks after someone is fully vaccinated – among older people or those who are immunocompromised, since vaccines may already be less effective among these groups.

People over 65 represent about 75% of breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death, according to the CDC.

The UK offers insight into what to expect in the US

london UK reopening
Outdoor dining in Soho, London, on April 18.

Disease experts worry that the US could soon follow in the footsteps of the UK, where average deaths have more than doubled in the past two weeks, from 17 to 40 a day. The UK’s average hospitalizations have also increased about 60% during that time, from about 380 to 615 a day.

That’s despite the fact that nearly 70% of UK residents have received at least one vaccine dose.

In the US, about 44% of the population remains unvaccinated. (That includes about 48 million children under age 12, for whom vaccines haven’t been authorized yet.)

The country is now administering as many daily vaccine doses as it was in late December, when vaccines were available only to healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities. Just 384,000 daily doses were given out on average over the past week.

Some Americans, particularly in rural counties, may still struggle to access shots, while others can’t afford to take time off work to get vaccinated. But, for the most part, widespread vaccine hesitancy has slowed down vaccination rates.

About 18% of adults surveyed in a recent YouGov poll said they didn’t plan to get vaccinated, while 11% said they were unsure. These rates were significantly higher among Republicans and people in the Midwest and South.

Most vaccine-hesitant people in the survey said they were worried about side effects from coronavirus shots – though studies have shown that vaccine side effects are generally mild and fleeting. The vast majority of them also said they believed that the threat of the virus was exaggerated for political reasons.

Lifting mask and social-distancing mandates could delay herd immunity

US reopening concert phone picture Instagram
A couple at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 20.

Despite lagging vaccination rates, most US states have lifted mask and social-distancing mandates. In states such as Delaware, Florida, Missouri, and South Carolina, masks are recommended but not required for unvaccinated people.

Some disease experts said removing these restrictions too soon could send the wrong message about the state of the pandemic.

“The concern is if you’re on the fence, and then you go outside and you see, ‘Hey, things are back to normal,’ that may decrease the chance of you wanting to even get vaccinated,” Cherian said.

For now, experts are hopeful that the US can still vaccinate at least 70 to 85% of its population – a threshold that may allow the country to reach herd immunity. But a new variant that evades protection from vaccines or prior infection could push that goal even further from view, so public-health officials remain determined to vaccinate more Americans as quickly as possible.

“If you get to that situation, then you essentially get us back to a level” that we were in before March 2020, Cherian said, adding: “That’s just not a place that you want to be.”

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The Delta variant is hitting red states hardest as the US’s vaccine divide widens

anti vaccine trump rally
A protester holds an anti-vaccine sign as supporters of President Donald Trump rally in Woodland Hills, California, on May 16, 2020.

  • The Delta variant is sickening people most in unvaccinated, heavily Republican “red” states.
  • Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wyoming have seen upticks in cases and hospitalizations.
  • But the variant has had little effect in blue states like Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US’s daily coronavirus cases have soared 60% in the last two weeks as the Delta variant strengthens its hold on the country. Delta now accounts for more than half of US cases, making it the dominant strain nationwide.

But the variant isn’t hitting all states equally. Delta cases have risen primarily in states with low vaccination rates, which for the most part are heavily Republican – “red” states like Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wyoming. Overall, these states have seen higher upticks in daily cases and hospitalizations than “blue” states that voted Democratic in the 2020 election.

In Missouri, for instance, daily cases have risen around 75% in the last two weeks, from around 800 to 1,400 cases per day. Hospitalizations have also risen 34% during that time, from around 830 to 1,100 per day. Delta has made up nearly 70% of all coronavirus cases there over the last two months, according to data compiled by Scripps Research’s Outbreak.info tracker. Less than half of Missouri residents (around 46%) have received at least one vaccine dose so far – well below the US average of 56%.

But Vermont, where nearly 75% of residents have received at least one dose, has reported just five daily cases and five daily hospitalizations in the last two weeks. Delta made up less than 1% of coronavirus cases there in the last two months.

Other blue states, like Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, have also reported some of the lowest case numbers and highest vaccination rates in the country. In each of these states, Delta has represented less than 10% of overall cases in the last two months, according to Outbreak.info.

“We’ve got to get away from the divisiveness,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told ABC on Sunday – a reference to the way the US’s vaccine divide falls along political lines.

Viruses, Fauci added, “don’t know the difference between a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent.”

Republicans are less likely than Democrats to trust vaccines

vermont covid-19 vaccine
A National Guard soldier gives a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination stand at the Vermont Creamery in Websterville, Vermont, on June 29, 2021.

Data collected by the New York Times shows that just 34% of people are fully vaccinated in an average US county that voted for Donald Trump, whereas 45% of people are fully vaccinated in an average county that voted for Joe Biden.

There are several reasons why vaccination rates are stalling in red states. For one, Republicans are more likely to believe that vaccines aren’t safe or that the shots aren’t necessary to protect their health, according to a June survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Additionally, Republican states also tend to be more rural, so access to shots may still prevent some people in those areas from getting immunized.

In Arkansas, for instance, around 42% of counties are rural. Research from Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that several Arkansas counties qualify as “vaccine deserts,” with the nearest COVID-19 vaccination site more than a 15-minute drive away. Just 43% of Arkansas residents have received at least one vaccine dose.

But the state’s health director, Dr. José Romero, blames the low vaccination rate on widespread vaccine hesitancy – not lack of access. The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that rural residents are also significantly more vaccine hesitant than urban or suburban residents.

“We’ve done everything we can,” Romero told Insider. “We’ve made the vaccine available. We’ve gone the extra mile to make it pretty much on demand if you want it.”

arkansas vaccine campaign
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson watches an ad featuring former NBA star Sidney Moncrief that encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, at the state capitol in Little Rock on May 20, 2021.

Delta has made up nearly 40% of Arkansas’ cases over the last two months – among the highest shares in the country. Romero said he has tried to remind residents that the variant poses “a much greater threat” than the original coronavirus strain.

An analysis from Public Health England found that Delta was associated with a 60% increased risk of household transmission relative to the Alpha variant discovered in the UK, though more recent estimates suggest the difference is closer to 40%. The Alpha variant is already about 50% more transmissible than the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers in Scotland also found that getting infected with the Delta variant doubled the risk of hospital admission relative to Alpha. (Previous studies have suggested that the Alpha variant may be 30% to 70% deadlier than the original strain.)

Vaccines, of course, significantly lower that risk, but it’s important to complete the full course. New research suggests that partially vaccinated people are more vulnerable to symptomatic Delta infections than they might be to other strains. A study published last week in the journal Nature found that a single dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was either weakly or not at all effective against the variant.

“It’s very clear that this is a nasty variant,” Fauci told ABC. “It has a much greater capability of transmitting from person to person.”

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Arkansas is the US’s new Delta epicenter. Its health director says ‘we’ve done everything we can’ to convince people to get vaccinated.

arkansas vaccine campaign
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson watches an ad featuring former NBA star Sidney Moncrief that encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, at the state capitol in Little Rock, May 20, 2021.

  • Arkansas is seeing its highest spike in coronavirus cases in nearly five months.
  • The spread of the Delta variant has made it a new epicenter of the US outbreak.
  • But Arkansas health officials are still struggling to convince people to get vaccinated.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Few states have had a harder time vaccinating people than Arkansas.

Less than 43% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, and just 34% of residents are fully vaccinated – among the lowest vaccination rates in the US. That made the state a sitting duck for the Delta variant, which is significantly more transmissible than the original virus or other variants. As Delta spreads rapidly among unvaccinated people in the US, Arkansas and its neighbor, Missouri, have become the epicenter of the US outbreak.

The maps below, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show how Arkansas’ latest surge correlates with its low vaccination rate. Counties with at least 100 cases per 100,000 people (in blue) also have vaccination rates below 40% (in purple).

A map on the left shows counties where COVID-19 cases rates are above 100 cases per 100.000, a map on the right shows counties where vaccination rates are below 40%. Texas as greyed out on the map on the right as county-level vaccinatin data is not available.
Maps of the us show counties where case rate is over 100 per 100.000, and counties where vaccination rate is below 40%, as of July 2, 2021

Arkansas reported more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases on Friday – its highest tally in nearly five months. The state’s daily coronavirus cases more than doubled over the last two weeks, from around 290 to 600 cases per day, on average. Data compiled by Scripps Research’s Outbreak.info tracker suggests that Delta may account for more than 80% of Arkansas’ new coronavirus infections. That’s among the highest shares of Delta infections in the country.

Hospitalizations have risen in the state as a result: Arkansas’ average is up 42% in the last two weeks, from around 270 to 380 hospitalizations per day.

The state’s health director, Dr. José Romero, blames the low vaccination rate on widespread vaccine hesitancy in rural areas.

arkansas health director
Arkansas Health Director José Romero.

Romero told Insider that the state’s health department arranged for essential workers to get access to shots at their places of work, but demand for the service was low. Even teachers have been reluctant to get their shots, he said: At most, 45% of teachers and staff at Arkansas schools have been vaccinated.

Now, the health department is planning to return to schools and workplaces to offer the shots a second time. Officials are also hosting town halls to address residents’ concerns about vaccine safety, since misinformation on social media has led people to think, falsely, that coronavirus vaccines might increase the risk of infertility.

Since May, Arkansas’ government has also been offering incentives for those who get vaccinated: $20 gift certificates for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or $20 lottery tickets.

But if those efforts don’t pan out, there’s no backup plan.

“We’ve done everything we can,” Romero said. “We’ve made the vaccine available. We’ve gone the extra mile to make it pretty much on demand if you want it. We’ve made testing available all around the state through various means. I don’t think there’s anything else that we can do at this point.”

Many rural residents don’t see a need to get vaccinated

dugan's pub arkansas
Anna Barnard, left, wears a mask as she talks to Greg and Judy Robinson at Dugan’s Pub in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 11, 2020.

Access to shots may still be a problem in Arkansas, despite the state’s efforts. Rural communities are historically hard to reach through vaccination campaigns, and around 42% of Arkansas counties are rural. Research from Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that several Arkansas counties qualify as “vaccine deserts,” with the nearest COVID-19 vaccination site more than a 15-minute drive away.

But Romero doesn’t think that’s the issue.

“We really do have vaccine in every county in the state,” he said. “This is the home of Walmart, and Walmart is a federal partner. I say this tongue-in-cheek: You can’t swing a cat without hitting Walmart. They’re everywhere and they’re distributing the vaccine.”

Romero said he is more concerned about how difficult it has been to convince rural residents that the coronavirus is dangerous, even with the spread of Delta.

“There is a significant population within the state that still doesn’t believe this to be a major health threat,” he said. “They consider themselves not at risk because they’re healthy.”

arkansas football game covid-19
A sign at the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the Georgia Bulldogs played the Arkansas Razorbacks on September 26, 2020.

Even within his own health department, Romero added, there are still employees “that are not believers in the vaccine.”

Arkansas has one of the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy in the country. As of June, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 25% of the state’s population might be hesitant or unsure about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Only three other states – Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming – had higher hesitancy rates.

Arkansas has also struggled to get people to return for their second shots. Romero said 15% of people who had received their first dose of either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine hadn’t gone back for their second as of two weeks ago. Romero said he thinks it’s because many residents were deterred by the side effects of their first dose.

That’s particularly concerning given that new research suggests partially vaccinated people are more vulnerable to symptoms from Delta. A study published Thursday in the journal Nature found that just a single dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was either weakly or not at all effective against the variant.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How well COVID-19 vaccines protect against the Delta variant, according to the best available data

coronavirus vaccine
A nurse at the Royal Cornwall Hospital prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine in Truro, United Kingdom.

  • The Delta variant is the most common cause of new COVID-19 infections in the US, the UK, and elsewhere.
  • Delta has mutations that can help it avoid the immune response.
  • Four studies suggest vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca work against Delta, to varying degrees.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The highly-infectious Delta coronavirus variant is causing a surge in COVID-19 cases around the world, from the US to India. The variant has mutations that help it partially escape the immune response produced by vaccines.

The data for how well COVID-19 vaccines work against the Delta variant isn’t clear cut.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday, July 6, that COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca worked well against severe COVID-19 caused by Delta, in comparison to other variants. But the vaccines may offer less protection against symptomatic illness – rather than severe disease – caused by Delta compared to other variants, it said.

Here’s how much protection COVID-19 vaccines give you against symptomatic Delta infections, based on the best available data from four studies.

UK study: Pfizer 88% effective, AstraZeneca 60%

A UK-based study from May found that two doses of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer’s vaccine were highly effective against the Delta variant, from two weeks after the second dose.

Pfizer

  • 33% effective after one dose, 88% effective after two.

AstraZeneca

  • 33% effective after one dose, 60% effective after two.

Canadian study: Pfizer 87% effective after two doses, Moderna 72% after one dose

A Canadian study posted on Saturday, July 3, found that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine worked as well against Delta as they did against the Alpha variant, which was previously dominant in the US.

The study hasn’t been scrutinized by experts in a peer-review.

Pfizer

  • 56% effective from 14 days after first dose, 87% effective after two doses.

AstraZeneca

  • 67% effective from 14 days after first dose. Not enough data for two doses.

Moderna

  • 72% effective from 14 days after first dose. Not enough data for two doses.

Israel study: Pfizer 64% effective after two doses

The Israel Ministry of Health said on Monday, July 6, that Pfizer’s vaccine worked slightly less well against the Delta variant than previous estimates. The number of people who got infected during the study period was small, and the figure may have included asymptomatic infections.

Pfizer

  • 64% effective after two doses.

Scotland study: Pfizer 79% effective after two doses, 60% for AstraZeneca.

A Scotland-based study published as a letter to the Lancet medical journal on June 14 found that Pfizer’s vaccine offered “very good” protection against the Delta variant.

Pfizer

  • 79% effective after two doses, at least 14 days after the second dose.

AstraZeneca

  • 60% effective after two doses, at least 14 days after the second dose.

Why the numbers vary

Percentage efficacy for vaccines is the proportion of people that get full protection after a vaccine. With 80% efficacy, 80% of people have full protection, and 20% don’t.

It becomes harder to measure how well vaccines work in the real world compared with trials, because you can’t control who gets vaccinated and who doesn’t. Other differences between the two groups could influence the risk of getting sick from COVID-19. For example, those who chose not to get vaccinated could also be more likely to put themselves in risky situations that may expose them to the virus.

The numbers can also vary because they depend on numerous factors, including what you’re measuring, when you measure it, the age of the population you’re measuring it in, and whether there’s been previous COVID-19 infections.

Stephen Evans, professor of medical statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told Insider that in general, the more severe the illness caused by Delta, the better the COVID-19 vaccines appeared to work against it. But the evidence on vaccines’ effectiveness wasn’t strong, he said.

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Desperate to get Americans vaccinated as the Delta variant spreads, Biden suggests a door-to-door vaccination effort

covid vaccine
A child receives a Covid-19 vaccine on May 13, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

As the more transmissible Delta variant spreads throughout the US, President Joe Biden is scrambling to find ways to get more Americans vaccinated, including going door-to-door.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Biden said mass vaccination sites across the country are closing down, and now “we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door – literally knocking on doors – to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”

Experts have said communities with the least vaccination rates are more at risk of outbreaks caused by the more transmissible Delta variant, which originated in India. The variant may also be able to evade protection from existing vaccines, as Insider’s Aria Bendix reported.

The variant has already been found in all 50 states and is dominant in five, including California. It’s expected to be the most dominant strain in the country in the coming weeks.

Delta poses the most risks to the unvaccinated. A recent Associated Press analysis found almost all of the COVID-19 deaths in the US are among those who are unvaccinated.

“Our fight against this virus is not over,” Biden said. “Right now, as I speak to you, millions of Americans are still unvaccinated and unprotected. And because of that, their communities are at risk, their friends are at risk. The people that they care about are at risk.”

Read more: Here are 9 people you should watch as Rep. Matt Gaetz’s legal drama escalates

The president’s approach is to change from large public messaging into more local approaches, equipping local medical experts and professionals to work with their communities to get more people vaccinated.

As mass vaccine sites close, the president said he wanted vaccines to be given at local settings like pharmacies, churches, festivals, or workplaces. He wants the experience to be like “going in to get toothpaste or something else you need from a drugstore.”

“We’re going to put even more emphasis on getting vaccinated in your community, close to home, conveniently at a location you’re already familiar with,” he said.

About 55% of all Americans are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows, but vaccination rates are declining. While more than 3 million Americans received vaccines daily during the peak in April, the rate has been declining in recent weeks, at one point seeing only 700,000 people getting shots per day.

Additionally, a Washington Post-ABC News poll from last week found that 29% of Americans say they most likely won’t take a vaccine.

Experts have warned that unvaccinated people are not only risking their own health but risk allowing for more variants.

“Unvaccinated people are potential variant factories,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN.

“The more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply,” he added.

Biden warned that while were close to getting out the pandemic, it’s important for everyone to do their part and stay vigilant.

“We are emerging from one of the darkest years in our nation’s history into a summer of hope and joy, hopefully. Think about where you were – where you were last year, where you are today; what you were able to do last year at this time and do today. It’s a year of hard-fought progress. We can’t get complacent now,” he said.

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The fast-spreading Delta virus is now dominant in California and at least 4 other states, experts say

Los Angeles Coronavirus
A Covid-19 warning sign in Los Angeles, California.

  • The highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant is set to become dominant in the US soon.
  • Data from California officials suggests Delta is already dominant there.
  • Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri and Utah also published data showing that the variant is dominant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Data shows that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is already dominant in five states of the US.

The variant, which is more transmissible than previous ones, has now reached all 50 states in the US. It is set to become dominant in the country over the next couple of weeks, according to expert projections.

Some states are further along the curve than others. Data suggests it has already taken over in at least five. This includes California, the most populous state.

A variant is considered dominant once it causes a greater proportion of infections than any other. It can reach this level before accounting for 50% of cases, though nations where Delta has existed the longest are registering close to 100% dominance.

California

The Delta variant makes up 35,6% of all cases, according to the latest available data from the California Department of Public Health. That is higher than the previously dominant variant Alpha, which made up 34,3% of cases.

A table shows prevalence of variants of concern in California, each line showing results every month. Delta and Alpha variants are highlighted in the table
Prevalence of variants of concern as of June 21 in California.

Iowa

53% of cases sequenced in the week of June 21 were Delta variants, according to KWWL.

Arkansas

56% of Arkansas cases were due to Delta as of June 24, according to Action 5 news.

Missouri

As of Wednesday, the variant made up about half of the cases in Missouri, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

Utah

70% of cases sequenced on the week of June 13 were Delta variants, according to Utah department of health data.

In the graph below, the variants are called by their scientific names. Delta, or B1.617.2, is orange, while Alpha, or B.1.1.7, is green.

A bar chart shows the prevalence of variants of concern in Utah, as of June 13. The proportion of the Delta variant is seen growing over time.
Variant of concern in Utah as of June 13.

The variant could already be dominant elsewhere

It is likely that the variant is dominant in more states. Data reported here is from infections recorded a few weeks ago, a lag caused by the length of time taken to collect and analyze the data.

An analysis from the Financial Times published on Saturday suggests the variant could already be dominant in 21 states.

These can be seen in the tweet below:

As Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, says in this tweet, most states sequence a “very low” proportion of overall cases, making the rate of Delta’s spread harder to pin down.

Vaccines work, even with the Delta variant

What is encouraging is that two doses of vaccine are highly protective against developing even mild symptoms after catching the Delta variant. On Sunday, Joe Biden said during July Fourth celebrations that getting vaccinated is “the most patriotic thing you can do.”

Data from the UK – where Delta is almost totally dominant – suggests that both doses of the Pfizer vaccine offers 88% and the AstraZeneca vaccine 60% protection from symptomatic disease.

One dose of either is less protective against developing mild symptoms of the disease: 33% in both types.

However, a single dose of either vaccine offers substantial protection against developing a worse version of COVID-19.

The AstraZeneca shot offers 71% efficacy against hospitalization, while the Pfizer shot offers 94% protection, data from the UK shows.

Johnson & Johnson and Moderna have also said that their vaccines work well against the Delta variant.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The CDC stopped tracking most COVID-19 cases in vaccinated people. That makes it hard to know how dangerous Delta really is.

coronavirus testing
A nurse administers a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Suffolk County, New York, on December 18, 2020.

  • The CDC stopped monitoring non-severe COVID-19 cases among vaccinated people in May.
  • It’s hard to assess Delta’s risk without knowing what mild breakthrough cases look like – or whether they’re becoming more common.
  • Vaccines still seem highly effective against the variant, though.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It was great news: From January to April, just 0.01% of vaccinated Americans – around 10,000 out of 100 million people – got breakthrough infections, or cases of COVID-19 diagnosed after they were fully immunized.

That’s according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also indicated that certain coronavirus variants were to blame for most of these breakthrough cases. However, the CDC only had genetic sequencing for around 5% of the post-vaccine infections, and the report didn’t include data about the Delta variant. That strain, first detected in the US in March, might pose the greatest challenge to vaccine efficacy.

But before more data could be collected to answer these lingering questions, the CDC stopped tracking breakthrough infections that resulted in asymptomatic, mild, or moderate cases. Since May 1, the agency has only reported and investigated coronavirus infections among vaccinated people that resulted in hospitalization or death.

Sequencing efforts in the US haven’t ramped up much, either: The country is still only sequencing about 1.4% of its coronavirus cases, according to data from GISAID, a global database that collects coronavirus genomes.

That means it’s difficult to tell exactly how much of a risk the Delta variant poses to vaccinated people. Researchers still don’t know whether Delta makes breakthrough cases more common, or what the typical symptoms of a breakthrough infection caused by Delta look like. As a result, vaccinated people may have a hard time weighing the risks of returning to normal social activities or knowing what to expect should they develop a rare breakthrough case.

In a recent blog post for Harvard Health Publishing, Robert Shmerling, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, called the CDC’s decision not to track all breakthrough cases “surprising” and “disappointing.”

“By tracking only cases requiring hospitalization or causing death, we may miss the chance to learn how people with ‘milder’ disease are affected by Delta or other variant infections, such as how long their symptoms last and how the infection may disrupt their lives,” Shmerling told Insider.

He added that the US could also miss important information about which vaccines are most effective against Delta, how long vaccine protection against the variant lasts, and whether the timing of a second vaccine dose might determine one’s likelihood of a breakthrough case.

The CDC told Insider that in a substantial proportion of reported breakthrough cases, data on symptoms is missing, “which is one reason why CDC is publicly reporting hospitalized and fatal cases.”

The agency added that its Emerging Infections Program is still working with nine states to obtain sequencing data from breakthrough cases – including asymptomatic and mild ones.

How well do vaccines protect against Delta?

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RN Janelle Roper, left, administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to nurse anesthetist Kate-Alden Hartman.

So far, data suggests that vaccines hold up extremely well against Delta: Public Health England analyses have found that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are 96% effective at preventing hospitalizations in cases involving the variant, and 88% effective at preventing symptomatic illness. Two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, meanwhile, are around 92% effective at preventing hospitalizations and 60% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 from Delta.

Moderna announced on Tuesday that its vaccine is also highly effective against Delta based on lab studies, though the efficacy was slightly diminished compared to the original strain. And South African researchers recently found that among people who’d received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 94% of breakthrough infections were mild – including those caused by Delta.

However, Public Health England found that one shot of either Pfizer’s or AstraZeneca’s vaccines was just 33% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 from Delta. Israeli health officials also reported last week that as many as half of new COVID-19 cases in Israel are among vaccinated people, with the majority of cases being driven by the Delta variant. (However, vaccinated people in Israel appeared to develop milder cases than unvaccinated people.)

Shmerling said that finding out which variants are responsible for most breakthrough cases – whether it’s Delta or another strain – could help vaccine manufacturers learn whether they need to modify their current shots or roll out boosters more quickly.

“It’s possible that tracking the severe cases would give us enough information about which variants are responsible for most breakthrough infections,” he said. “But, again, the more we know about all breakthrough cases, the better we’ll understand how they occur.”

Hilary Brueck contributed reporting.

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1,000 US counties still have vaccination rates below 30% – particularly in the Southeast and Midwest, CDC says

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Maryland National Guard Specialist James Truong administers a Moderna coronavirus vaccine in Wheaton, Maryland, May 21, 2021.

  • 1,000 US counties have vaccination rates below 30%, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.
  • Coronavirus transmission will likely increase in these areas as the Delta variant keeps spreading.
  • But the US is struggling to put shots in arms: Vaccination rates fell 85% in the last three months.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nearly half the US population is fully vaccinated, but rates still vary widely from state to state – and even more widely county by county.

Around 1,000 US counties currently have vaccination rates below 30%, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House press briefing on Thursday.

“These communities, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, are our most vulnerable,” Walensky said. “In some of these areas, we are already seeing increasing rates of disease. As the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, we expect to see increased transmissions in these communities unless we can vaccinate more people now.”

Delta is the most transmissible coronavirus variant to date, and may be deadlier than its predecessors, so disease experts are particularly concerned about its spread among unvaccinated communities.

An analysis from Public Health England found that Delta was associated with a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha variant discovered in the UK, though more recent estimates suggest the difference is closer to 40%. The Alpha variant is already about 50% more transmissible than the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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A mobile COVID-19 vaccination center in Bolton, England, on June 9, 2021.

Researchers in Scotland also found that getting infected with the Delta variant doubled the risk of hospital admission relative to Alpha. (Previous studies have suggested that the Alpha variant may be 30 to 70% deadlier than the original strain.)

Vaccines, of course, significantly lower that risk for both variants. The Associated Press recently reported that around 99% of COVID-19 deaths in May were among unvaccinated people, based on government data.

But the US has struggled recently to convince more Americans to get vaccinated, even with incentives like cash prizes, gift cards, and tickets to sports games. Vaccination rates have fallen 85% in the last three months. As of Wednesday, the US was administering less than 430,000 daily doses, on average, compared to a peak of more than 3 million daily doses in April. The nation will likely fall shy of its goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4 – 67% of adults have gotten at least one shot so far.

Meanwhile, Delta is expected to become the dominant strain in the US in a matter of weeks. It currently represents around 25% of the country’s reported cases, Walensky said. In some regions, she added, Delta already represents nearly half of new cases.

The spread of Delta has corresponded to a roughly 10% increase in weekly average of new coronavirus cases in the US. In the last two weeks, 19 states have seen their average daily cases rise. Missouri – where roughly four dozen counties have vaccination rates below 30% – has seen cases increase 55% during that time. In Arkansas – where more than 20 counties have vaccination rates below 30% – cases have risen 63%.

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Graphs show where the Delta variant is surging fastest in the US, with huge spikes in Missouri, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas

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A man receives a nasal swab COVID-19 test at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport .

  • The number of people infected with the Delta variant has sky-rocketed in four US states, a virus expert said.
  • Delta was now the most common virus strain in Missouri, Utah, Colorado, and Arkansas, Trevor Bedford said.
  • Bedford co-developed Nextstrain, a data platform used by the World Health Organization that tracks virus outbreaks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of people infected with the highly infectious Delta has skyrocketed in four US states, according to an expert in virus sequencing.

Trevor Bedford, affiliate associate professor at the department of genome sciences at University of Washington, said on Twitter on Thursday that the Delta variant had displaced the formerly-dominant Alpha variant in Missouri, Utah, Colorado, and Arkansas.

Bedford did not say where he got the data from, but he co-developed Nextstrain, a data platform used by the World Health Organization, that tracks virus outbreaks using publicly available data including from the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.

The most striking change was in Missouri, where the Alpha variant caused more than 80% of cases in May, and now accounts for about 10% of cases. Meanwhile, the Delta caused about 30% of sequenced cases in May, and more than 80% of new cases now, he said.

Missouri has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US – 36% of Missourians are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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 estimated to be at least twice as infectious as the Alpha variant and has rapidly spread to more than 96 countries. The World Health Organization said in a report released Tuesday that it expected Delta to outcompete other variants worldwide.

Bedford said on June 22 that it was difficult to predict the size of the Delta epidemic, but that he expected it to vary depending on the number of people vaccinated in an area. Real-world data from the UK showed that one dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was just 33% protective against COVID-19 with symptoms caused by Delta, rising to 88% effective after two doses.

Bedford did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the source of the data.

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