Fauci warns that the Delta coronavirus variant, first found in India, could take over in the US if people don’t get their shots

fauci gets his first vaccine
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gives a thumbs up after receiving his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • 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.
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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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Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against South African and UK coronavirus variants, according to Israeli study

pfizer vaccine
vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to front-line health care workers under an emergency use authorization at a drive up vaccination site from Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.

  • An Israeli study found that the Pfizer vaccine may not provide full protection against the South African strain.
  • Fully vaccinated patients saw protection against a surging UK strain, but partially vaccinated patients did not.
  • Israel has the world’s fastest vaccine roll-out, but has excluded Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories.
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Coronavirus variants first found in South Africa and the UK are able to partially “breakthrough” the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to an Israeli study that studied real-world infection data. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The study, released on Saturday, compared the incidences of both variants between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The study, conducted by Tel Aviv University and Israeli healthcare provider Clalit tracked almost 400 people, and counted both partially vaccinated (one dose) and fully vaccinated (two dose) patients.

The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to be eight times more prevalent among vaccinated patients while the UK strain, B.1.1.7, was more prevalent among partially vaccinated patients, though the fully-vaccinated showed increased protection against the UK strain.

The study suggests that the Pfizer vaccine provides less protection against the South African variant than the original coronavirus, but it is not able to actually conclude that because it is focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates.

Roughly 80% of Israel’s population is vaccinated, with almost 53% of the population having received both Pfizer doses. The study found that only 1% of total cases in the study were the South African variant, a promising sign for Israel, the most vaccinated country.

Israel’s vaccine totals do not include Palestinians. Israel occupies the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, and has rolled out the vaccine much more slowly in Palestinian territories, claiming that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the distribution of vaccines.

Earlier this month, a Palestinian student studying at Tel Aviv University in Israel won the right to be vaccinated after being turned away from a school vaccination site and then suing. Israel has just recently begun to vaccinate Palestinians.

In data released on April 1, Pfizer and Biotech found that their shot was 91% effective at preventing COVID-19 and showed early signs of preventing the spread of the B.1.351 strain as well. Earlier lab trials had suggested that the vaccine provides some protection against the strain, but not full protection.

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