Story at a glance

  • The document obtained by The Washington Post shows the delta variant could cause more severe illness and spread as easily as chickenpox.
  • There’s also some evidence that fully vaccinated people could pass on the delta variant just as easily as those who have yet to be vaccinated.
  • Vaccines are still effective at protecting people from becoming ill, and they reduce the chance of hospitalization or death.

An internal document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning about the danger of the highly contagious delta variant spreading across the U.S. 

The slide presentation based on unpublished data obtained by The Washington Post shows the variant could cause more severe illness and spread as easily as chickenpox — one of the most transmissible viruses. It also appears to spread more easily than the common cold, the 1918 flu and smallpox. 

The document also notes early evidence that fully vaccinated people could pass on the delta variant just as easily as those who have yet to be vaccinated, although vaccines are still effective at protecting people from becoming ill and reduce the chance of hospitalization or death. 


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The presentation warned that officials must “acknowledge the war has changed” against the pandemic, arguing the CDC needs to ramp up its public message regarding the efficacy and usefulness of vaccines. 

The CDC estimates about 35,000 vaccinated people in the U.S. out of the more than 162 million may be getting infected with the virus each week, although most new infections are occurring among the unvaccinated. 

The CDC is expected to release data from the presentation Friday. 

The data is what prompted the health agency to change its mask guidance this week, advising that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors when in areas with “substantial” and “high” transmission of COVID-19. 


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Published on Jul 30, 2021