CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus US: Can vaccinated people spread the Delta Variant?

Some researchers believe that vaccinated people can spread the delta variant, leading to a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

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Coronavirus US: Can vaccinated people spread the Delta Variant?
ED JONES AFP

The delta variant is quickly becoming the most common strain of covid-19 circulating in the US. Health experts in the US and abroad have warned that the variant is more transmissible, the impacts of which are already being seen in some states.

This week the federal government sent a covid-19 surge response team to Missouri after a major outbreak led to a rapid spike in hospitalizations and a ventilator shortage.

In an interview with Insider, Christopher Murray director of the Institute for Health Metric s and Evaluation, spoke about the high possibility that vaccinated people are spreading the virus.  CDC guidance states that those vaccinated should not be tested unless they are experiencing symptoms. However, this means that a gap between the true number of cases and the cases confirmed is growing.

This poses a problem for public health experts who now lack critical data, which could help them contact trace and isolate those exposed to reduce transmission.

Is the delta variant deadlier?

At this time, there is no evidence that the delta variant is more deadly than other strains. But, the CDC has confirmed that it is more transmissible, and an uptick in cases is usually followed by increased hospitalization. With more people hospitalized, health systems fall apart, personal and resources are stretched thin, leaving covid and non-covid patients vulnerable. 

Patients who come into the ER after a car crash or experiencing a heart attack may not receive the same level of care because the health system is overwhelmed by the surge in covid-19 cases. This phenomenon can lead to excess death, where those who may have faired non-fatal consequences without the surge in cases die as a result of an overwhelmed medical system.

Do vaccines protect against the delta variant?

All the vaccines available in the United States are effective in slowing the spread of covid-19. A May study from medRxiv found that the efficacy of Pfizer & BioNTech’s vaccine was brought down from 93.4% to 87.9% when protecting against the delta variant. While alarming that the efficacy has dropped, for health experts, vaccines still the single best way to protect oneself. Additionally, many vaccinated people who did test positive did not experience symptoms, and very few had to be hospitalized.

A recent study looking at covid-19 deaths in June found that 99.2% were unvaccinated. In some states, all deaths were linked back to individuals who had chosen not to get the vaccine.