By Paul Ajayi
U.S. health officials on Tuesday raised fresh alarm that the more harmful Covid-19 variant known as delta has surged in the U.K., a country with high vaccination levels, in a warning to states as inoculation fades across the U.S.
Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an adviser to President Joe Biden, said at a news briefing that the delta variant that was first reported in India now accounts for more than 6% of cases being sequenced in the U.S. while in the U.K. it has overtaken the alpha variant that originated there.
“It’s essentially taking over” in the U.K., Fauci said. “We cannot let that happen in the United States.” The delta variant has now been reported in 60 countries, including the U.S., he said.
The delta variant appears to be more easily spread and may be associated with increased severity of disease, Fauci said. Doctors in India have linked the variant to hearing impairment and blood clots leading to gangrene.
Across the U.S., Covid-19 caseloads are falling but so too is the pace of vaccinations. About 64% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose, but the pace of daily inoculations is down by more than two-thirds from April highs. Biden has launched a “month of action” to help spur along vaccinations.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to fall yet again urged people to get vaccinated. “There is more work to be done,” she said.
Fauci said the administration is “almost pleading” with states where vaccination levels remain below 50%. “If you don’t get vaccinated, you are at risk,” he said.
He said research shows that the Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc vaccines are only 33% effective against the delta variant after one shot, though are 88% and 60% effective, respectively, after two doses.