A coronavirus variant that was first identified in India is causing growing concern in the U.S., leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to raise its status to a “variant of concern.”
While data shows vaccines are still effective against the variant, referred to as delta, there is still worry that the variant could become the dominant strain circulating in the U.S. and spread among unvaccinated populations.
New research suggests that the delta variant nearly doubles the risk of hospitalization compared to the strain that was previously dominant in the U.K., referred to as alpha. The Scottish study also found that two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provide protection against the delta variant.
“This is a situation, the way it was in England, where they had [alpha] dominant, and then [delta] took over. We cannot let that happen in the United States,” leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said at a recent press conference.
Alpha became the main strain circulating in the U.S. in the spring, but experts are concerned that the delta variant could soon overtake it. It makes up nearly 10% of U.S. infections, according to the CDC.
The agency changed delta’s classification this week to a “variant of concern,” saying that there is “mounting evidence that the Delta variant spreads more easily and causes more severe cases when compared to other variants, including B.1.1.7 (Alpha).” The World Health Organization updated its status for delta last month.
Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the percentage of delta cases is doubling every two weeks.
With just under 44% of the U.S. population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, experts fear there is plenty of opportunity for the variant to spread.
Fauci said that the spread of the delta variant in the U.K. is peaking in 12-20-year-olds, adding that this age group is the main group the administration is concerned about getting vaccinated in the U.S. Less than 62% of the population 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to CDC data.