Fauci urges vaccination against COVID-19 variant spreading to US from India
White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that more than 6 percent of the sequenced COVID-19 infections in the U.S. trace to the highly transmissible Delta variant that was first found in India.
The Delta variant, known by the scientific name B1617.2, has spread from India to 60 countries, including the United Kingdom, where it has become the dominant strain making up more than 60 percent of cases.
Fauci warned the Delta variant is “essentially taking over” the U.K. as its transmissibility “appears to be greater” than the Alpha strain, also known as B.11.7, that had been the most prevalent in the country after it was first discovered.
The Alpha strain that was originally found in the U.K. became the dominant strain in the U.S. by April, which suggests the Delta strain could follow.
“We cannot let that happen in the United States,” Fauci said during a press briefing, calling on people to get vaccinated, including the second dose, to combat the spread of the variant.
Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine “appear to be effective” against the Delta variant.
He noted that three weeks after the first dose of the vaccines, both were 33 percent effective against symptomatic infections from the Delta strain, adding that data shows “why a second dose is so important.”
In the U.K., the transmission of the Delta variant is peaking among those aged 12 to 20, Fauci said, noting it’s the population that “we’re concerned about” getting vaccinated.
Vaccinations have dropped in the U.S. to about 1 million doses given per day, compared to the peak in April of almost 3.4 million per day, as the most enthusiastic vaccine recipients have already gotten their shots.
President Biden has set a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of American adults with at least one dose by the Fourth of July, as experts say more vaccinations could help the U.S. fight variants.
Now, 63.7 percent of American adults have received at least one dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The Delta strain was first identified in India, a country that was slammed by the coronavirus in recent weeks, reaching more than 400,000 confirmed cases in a single day in mid-May.
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