Public health official Dr. Anthony Fauci called the newest COVID-19 variant the “greatest threat” to the United States’ efforts to eradicate the virus during a White House press conference on the pandemic Tuesday.
First appearing in India, the delta variant is seen in nearly 20 percent of all new cases in the U.S. doubling from just 10 percent earlier this month, the White House chief medical advisor said.
According to Fauci, delta is apparently “following the same pattern” as the U.K. variant known as alpha. The doctor’s remarks come days after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky insisted Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19, warning that the delta variant will likely become dominant in the U.S.
CNBC reported that studies show delta is about 60 percent more transmissible than alpha, which was already more contagious than the original strain that originated in Wuhan, China.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said the new variant may become “more lethal because it’s more efficient in the way it transmits between humans and it will eventually find those vulnerable individuals who will become severely ill, have to be hospitalized and potentially die.”
In the United Kingdom, the delta variant has already become dominant, making up over 60 percent of new cases in the nation.
“As worrisome as this delta strain is with regard to its hyper transmissibility, our vaccines work,” Walensky said on “Good Morning America,” adding that vaccinated individuals will “be protected against this delta variant.”
Fauci echoed Walensky’s plea, saying on Tuesday that the United States possesses “the tools” necessary to tackle delta while pressuring Americans to get vaccinated.
“The effectiveness of the vaccines, in this case, two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech was 88% against the delta and 93% effective against alpha when dealing with symptomatic disease,” Fauci said, citing a study.
Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s administration said it is unlikely that it will meet Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of American adults by the Independence Day holiday.
When asked about the goal during a press conference last week, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said, “We’ve made tremendous progress. Today more than 175 million Americans have gotten at least one shot … hundreds of thousands of people are continuing to get their first shot each day, and we are going to get to 70 percent, and we’re going to continue across the summer months to push beyond 70 percent.”