In June, AM Analysts wrote about the potential need for booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine. While the data is still unclear as to when we might need booster shots, a new variable has entered the equation: the rise of the delta and delta plus variants.
The variants have already spread to just under 100 countries and are likely to become the dominant strains in the United States within the next few weeks or months. White House chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, estimates that the variant is responsible for over 20% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States, and has a doubling time of approximately two weeks.
The variant is noted for having the highest rate of transmissibility, touting a rate 60% higher than the alpha variant (the previously dominant strain in the United States). Last Tuesday, Dr. Fauci stated that the delta variant is “the greatest threat in the U.S. in our attempt to eliminate COVID-19.”
India’s Health Ministry released that it had discovered 40 cases of the delta plus variant with worrisome mutations. Lab work from India describes the variant to have three concerning traits: increased transmissibility, stronger binding to lung cell receptors, and increased resistance to monoclonal antibody therapy (an effective treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients until now).
Given the increased rate of transmissibility, the WHO has also expressed concern over the delta variant as it becomes the dominant strain. Chief Scientist at the WHO, Soumya Swaminathan, stated “We need more data, again from well-designed studies on the efficacy of the different vaccines that are in use in different countries against the different variants. So what this means is that there has to be in place, a study that uses a good design.”
However, Public Health England released a recent study with some hopeful findings: Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was found to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant, compared to its 93% effectiveness with the alpha strain. While it is less effective against the delta strain, it still offers a high degree of protection.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, stated that plans are being made now for booster shots, should we need them. However, the spotlight on potential booster shot plans being rolled out has also caused some heartburn amongst others in the West. Many people question whether booster shots are morally acceptable, given how many less-developed countries are struggling with their own vaccination programs.
Whether booster shots will be necessary soon, especially considering the rise of the delta and delta plus variants, one message remains quite clear: the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your community is to get vaccinated. Both Walensky and Fauci are pleading with the unvaccinated population to take the needle, as the more people that are vaccinated, the less these variants have the time and potential to mutate and create even more dangerous variants.
AM LLC is currently working nationwide with multiple states and public health agencies on testing, contact tracing, and vaccination programs. Counties, states, or K-12 partners that are interested in partnering with AM for COVID-19 mitigation support should contact Dr. Christopher K Orlea at firstname.lastname@example.org.