CLEVELAND, Ohio – The more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has been linked to a small number of infections in Ohio, but data has shown COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against it, the medical director said Thursday in Chief of Ohio.
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, has been classified by the World Health Organization as a ‘variant of concern’ after causing a wave of coronavirus infections in India. The variant has now been found in more than 60 countries and accounts for around 6% of new infections in the United States, health officials said during a White House press briefing earlier this week.
In Ohio, the variant currently accounts for less than 1% of cases, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, medical director for the Ohio Department of Health. But that percentage could increase as the Delta variant quickly spread to other countries, including India and the UK.
“So far here in Ohio, however, we are really only seeing a fraction of a percent in terms of our total mix,” Vanderhoff said during a press briefing Thursday morning. “But I would expect it to increase.”
Experts have determined that the variant is more contagious than the original strain of the coronavirus and the Alpha variant, also known as B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the UK, Dr Anthony Fauci , director of the National Institute of Allergy. and infectious disease, told the White House press briefing that it can also cause more serious illness and increase the risk of hospitalization.
The good news is that data has shown that COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the Delta variant, said Dr David Margolius, director of MetroHealth’s internal medicine division.
“I think for people who have hesitated whether or not to get vaccinated, if they wait for a more dangerous COVID to show up for additional motivation, that’s it,” Margolius said. “But as long as you go ahead and get the vaccine, you and your loved ones will be safe.”
A UK study found the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to be 88% effective in preventing symptomatic Delta variant infection. Fauci told the Washington Post that the Moderna vaccine should be just as effective because it uses the same messenger RNA technology that is used in the Pfizer vaccine.
Health officials have not released any information on how the Johnson & Johnson single-injection vaccine protects against symptomatic Delta variant infection.
There is, however, a caveat regarding vaccine data. The UK study found that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine was much less effective against the Delta variant – only 33% effective in preventing symptomatic infections.
The data underscores why it’s so important for Ohio residents to get a full vaccine, Vanderhoff said.
“The main thing is vaccination. This is the way out of the pandemic, ”Vanderhoff said. “This is our best protection, including against the Delta variant.”
However, experts have warned that there are still many possibilities for the variant to spread among unvaccinated Ohio residents. As of Thursday, only 41.5% of state residents had been fully immunized while 46.4% had received at least one dose, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.
This should be a cause for concern, as the Delta variant has been shown to be able to spread quickly, said Dr Thomas File, president of Summa Health’s infectious disease division.
“We need to vaccinate more people. My concern is that we’re not doing it fast enough right now, ”File said. “I don’t think we have really reached the point where we can say that we are protected against the transmission of this virus, especially among those who have not been vaccinated.”
Governor Mike DeWine told Thursday’s press conference that Ohio is entering a “new phase of the pandemic” after meeting its goal of reducing infections to less than 50 per 100,000 population over the weekend. end. That number rose to 39.1 infections per 100,000 population as of Wednesday, DeWine said.
DeWine said vaccines have been the key to Ohio’s improvement. He warned that anyone who has not been vaccinated is still at risk of infection and potentially serious illness.
“For someone who hasn’t been vaccinated, that threat is definitely still there,” DeWine said. “We would urge people, of course, to get vaccinated. The more vaccinated we are, the better off we will all be. “