The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, the Biden administration said on Tuesday in a renewed effort to persuade Americans to get vaccinated.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, told reporters that the Delta strain, which was first identified in India, now accounts for around 6% of new infections in the United States.
(The World Health Organization changed the way it names the coronavirus variants earlier this month, choosing to designate them with letters of the Greek alphabet rather than the regions where they were seen for the first time. The change was made to reduce the stigma associated with the affiliated nomenclature in the country.)
The Delta variant has already become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the UK, accounting for around 60% of new cases and raising concerns about a planned reopening of the company which some experts believe could trigger a third wave of the pandemic.
“We can’t let this happen in the United States,” Fauci said during a briefing with reporters.
Two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were effective against the Delta variant, but Fauci said a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine was only 33% effective against the strain.
“If you got your first dose, make sure you get that second dose,” Fauci said. “For those who have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated.”
The doctor added that transmission in the UK “is peaking” among young people between the ages of 12 and 20, a key group that US officials hope to immunize en masse to prevent a new wave of infections.
President Joe Biden endorsed Fauci’s assessment and advice:
US officials have touted the effectiveness of the country’s mass vaccination campaign in recent days. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the country had seen a drop in rates of inoculation-related infections.
“Every week there is more and more data to demonstrate the impact of vaccination on preventing disease and pulling us out of this pandemic,” Walensky said on Tuesday.
Biden has strived to see 70% of Americans vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4. This goal, however, has been compromised by declining vaccination rates.
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