The delta variant, also known as B. 1.617, was first detected last year in India and has since spread globally. It is now present in all 50 states and modeling shows that it now accounts for over 50 percent of all the new infections in the country. “Although we expected the delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said recently during a White House news briefing.
So how did we get here? “As viruses replicate, they have the chance to mutate. And sometimes when a virus mutates, it leads to a new variant,” Dr. Jennifer Arroyo of Siemens Healthineers explained at our recent “Close the Gap” virtual health summit hosted in partnership with Boston Scientific.
According to Dr. Arroyo, vaccinations and testing are key to containing this highly contagious variant. “[Both] will help keep your family and community safe,” said Dr. Arroyo. “If you get vaccinated, you can help stop this chain of infection.” She also shared that highly accurate testing is critical because it minimizes individual risk and helps officials make informed policy decisions based on the infection rate of specific areas.
With the perception that the pandemic in the U.S. is ebbing, there has been a significant drop in COVID-19 tests since January. And while vaccination rates in the U.S. are promising—about 67 percent of Americans 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine and almost 60 percent are fully vaccinated—vaccination rates vary sharply by region.
With the rise of the new Delta variant, it is extremely essential that individuals continue to get tested and vaccinated to prevent serious illness as a result of contracting COVID-19 and its variants, as well as to prevent the rise of potentially more contagious variants in the future. In a recent interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told anchor Chuck Todd that 99.2 percent of Covid-related deaths in June occurred among unvaccinated people.
This is especially concerning when the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities is considered. In 32 states, it was found that Black people are dying due to the virus at rates higher than their proportion of the population. Thus, Black and minority populations are highly encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccination in order to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, vaccination rates for Black Americans are still lagging. If you’re still on the fence, Dr. Katherine Soreng of Siemens Healthineers encourages you to consider the risk-to-benefit ratio. According to her, the associated risks that often come with a COVID-19 diagnosis are far too great when compared to the benefits and protection that a vaccine provides. In fact, 10 percent of covid infections become “long COVID” with patients experiencing symptoms that they do not recover from including shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, and joint pain.
When compared to other COVID-19 variants, the high transmissibility rates of the rising COVID-19 Delta variant has made it one of most significantly dangerous variants yet. So, it is extremely essential that individuals continue to get vaccinated to prevent serious illness as a result of contracting COVID-19 and its variants, as well as to prevent the rise of potentially more contagious variants in the future.
“It is important that we do not give this virus a chance to keep replicating and mutating,” said Dr. Arroyo. “[Getting] a vaccination should be the first priority for one’s individual health and for the benefit of the community.”