The highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus is quickly spreading throughout the United States, the Biden administration said on Tuesday in a renewed effort to persuade Americans to get vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told reporters that the Delta strain, first identified in India, now accounts for about 6% of new infections in the U.S.
(The World Health Organization shifted how it names coronavirus variants earlier this month, opting to refer to them by letters of the Greek alphabet rather than the regions they were first seen. The change was made to reduce the stigma associated with country-affiliated nomenclature.)
The Delta variant has already become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.K., accounting for about 60% of new cases and raising concerns about a planned reopening of society that some experts fear could launch a third wave of the pandemic.
“We cannot let this happen in the United States,” Fauci said during a briefing with reporters.
Two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were effective against the Delta variant, but Fauci said just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine was only 33% effective against the strain.
“If you’ve gotten your first dose, make sure to get that second dose,” Fauci said. “For those who have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated.”
The doctor added that transmission in the U.K. was “peaking” among young people aged 12- to 20-years-old, a key group American officials hope to vaccinate en masse to prevent a new wave of infections.
President Joe Biden agreed with Fauci’s assessment and advice:
U.S. officials have touted the effectiveness of the country’s mass vaccination drive in recent days. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the country had seen declining rates of infections linked to the inoculations.
“Each week there are more and more data to demonstrate the impact vaccination has on preventing disease and moving us out of this pandemic,” Walensky said Tuesday.
Biden has been working toward a goal of seeing 70% of Americans vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4. That goal, however, has been imperiled by falling vaccination rates.
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