Vaccine protection remains very strong against serious illness and hospitalizations caused by any version of the coronavirus, and those most at risk are still the unvaccinated, according to interviews with 10 leading COVID-19 experts.
But evidence is mounting that the Delta variant, first identified in India, is able to infect fully vaccinated people at a higher rate than previous versions, and concerns have been expressed about the spread of the virus. , said these experts.
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As a result, the targeted use of masks, social distancing and other measures may again be needed even in countries with large vaccination campaigns, several of them said.
Israel recently reinstated indoor mask requirements and requires travelers to self-quarantine upon arrival.
US authorities are considering revising the guidelines on masks for the vaccinated. Los Angeles County, the most populous in the United States, is once again demanding masks even among those vaccinated in indoor public spaces.
Even in Canada, where hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases continue to decline, national data from the Public Health Agency of Canada warns that the Delta variant has a chance to unravel some of that progress. The data suggests that, despite the ground gained on COVID-19 nationwide, the Delta variant could lead to “a bigger resurgence than expected this fall and winter.”
“The biggest risk to the world right now is just Delta,” said microbiologist Sharon Peacock, who is leading Britain’s efforts to sequence the genomes of coronavirus variants, calling it “the most suitable variant and fastest to date ”.
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Viruses constantly evolve by mutation, with the appearance of new variants. Sometimes these are more dangerous than the original.
The main concern about the Delta variant is not that it makes people sicker, but that it spreads much more easily from person to person, increasing infections and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.
Public Health England said on Friday that of a total of 3,692 people hospitalized in Britain with the Delta variant, 58.3% were not vaccinated and 22.8% were fully vaccinated.
In Canada, although COVID-19 cases are on the decline, the worrisome variants account for the majority of reported COVID-19 cases, or about 70%. For the week of June 20, 2021, Delta variant cases were at 39%, while Alpha cases were around 38% – the first time that both variant cases were reported in similar proportions.
In Singapore, where Delta is the most common variant, government officials reported on Friday that three-quarters of its coronavirus cases have occurred among people who have been vaccinated, although none have been seriously ill.
Israeli health officials said 60% of current hospitalized COVID-19 cases were in people who had been vaccinated. Most of them are 60 years or older and often have underlying health problems.
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In the United States, which has seen more cases and deaths of COVID-19 than any other country, the Delta variant accounts for about 83% of new infections. So far, unvaccinated people account for almost 97% of severe cases.
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Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, said many vaccinated people are “so disappointed” that they are not 100% protected against mild infections. But the fact that almost all Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 right now are not vaccinated “is quite surprisingly effective,” she said.
“There is always the illusion that there is a silver bullet that will solve all our problems. The coronavirus is teaching us a lesson, ”said Nadav Davidovitch, director of the school of public health at Ben-Gurion University in Israel.
The Pfizer Inc / BioNTech vaccine, one of the most effective against COVID-19 to date, has only appeared to be 41% effective in stopping symptomatic infections in Israel over the past month as the Delta variant s is being spread, according to Israeli government data. Israeli experts said this information needs further analysis before any conclusions can be drawn.
“The protection of the individual is very strong; the protection to infect others is significantly less, ”Davidovich said.
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A study in China found that people infected with the Delta variant carried 1,000 times more virus in their noses compared to the original version first identified in Wuhan in 2019.
“You can actually shed more virus and that’s why it’s more transmissible. It’s still under investigation, ”Peacock said.
Virologist Shane Crotty of the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in San Diego noted that Delta is 50% more infectious than the Alpha variant first detected in the UK.
“It outshines all the other viruses because it spreads so much more efficiently,” Crotty said.
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Genomics expert Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Noted that Delta infections have a shorter incubation period and a much higher amount of viral particles.
“This is why vaccines will be called into question. People who have been vaccinated should be especially careful. It’s a tough question, ”Topol said.
In the United States, the Delta variant took hold just as many Americans – vaccinated and unvaccinated – stopped wearing masks indoors.
“It’s a double whammy,” Topol said. “The last thing you want is to relax the restrictions when you are faced with the most dreaded version of the virus to date. “
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The development of highly effective vaccines may have led many people to believe that once vaccinated, COVID-19 posed little threat to them.
“When vaccines were first developed, no one thought they would prevent infection,” said Carlos del Rio, professor of medicine and infectious disease epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta. The goal has always been to prevent serious illness and death, del Rio added.
The vaccines were so effective, however, that there were signs they also prevented transmission against earlier coronavirus variants.
“We have been spoiled,” he says.
– with files from Global News
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