October 28, 2021

A dangerous Covid-19 variant on the rise could cause outbreaks in US states with lower vaccination rates, expert says

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The Delta variant is quickly on its way to becoming the dominant strain of Covid-19 in the US, raising concerns that outbreaks could hit vulnerable communities come fall.

Currently 10% of Covid-19 infections in the US can be attributed to the variant, also called the B.1.617.2 variant, but that proportion is doubling every two weeks, said Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said in a CBS interview Sunday. He added that it probably will become the dominant strain in the US. That may not mean a sharp uptick in infections across the country, which has administered more than 309 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, but specific regions are at risk, he said. “I think in parts of the country where you have less vaccination — particularly in parts of the South, where you have some cities where vaccination rates are low — there’s a risk that you could see outbreaks with this new variant,” Gottlieb said.

Nationally, 64.4% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but some states are seeing significantly lower rates. Less than half of adults living in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For states lagging in vaccinations, the Delta variant could pose serious risk since experts believe the Delta variant is significantly more transmissible than its predecessors, Gottlieb said. The good news is that evidence shows vaccines are still effective against it. “We have the tools to control this and defeat it, we just need to use those tools,” Gottlieb said.

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