[OPINION] The Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading fast: Red states, communities of color, youth are the most vulnerable

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“THE greatest threat” is how Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease doctor, calls the Delta variant of COVID-19 toward the elimination of the virus in the nation.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed many safety measures in the nation with at least 72% of adults vaccinated with at least the first dose, the highly infectious Delta variant’s prevalence has doubled in the last two weeks, responsible for one in every five COVID-19 cases, the New York Times reported.

The Delta variant was first detected in India, and as the Times further reported, the strain has already been identified in at least 85 countries. It has been found to be not only more transmissible, but also found to cause more severe symptoms of the disease.

This fact compelled the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn the global public that the rise of new variants “makes it even more urgent that we use all the tools at our disposal to prevent transmission,” and this would include consistent use of both vaccination and public health and social measures.

“What we’re saying is, ‘Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, continue to play it safe, because you could end up as part of a transmission chain.’ You may not actually be fully protected,” the Times report quoted Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the W.H.O.

While the United States is among a few countries with a high vaccination rate, many of the other nations have not reached rates that give herd immunity protection. And even in the U.S., there are states that have low vaccination rate, making their people the most vulnerable to getting infected by the Delta variant.

CNN reported that “new research suggests less vaccinated areas are at risk. Scientists at Helix analyzed nearly 20,000 COVID-19 tests collected since April and found the Delta variant is quickly rising in counties with fewer vaccinated residents.”

According to the data released by the CDC, “about 45.2% of the US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, CDC data showed, and in 16 states and Washington, DC, that proportion is up to more than half, and 16 have reached President Joe Biden’s goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one dose”.

However, states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wyoming — have fully vaccinated less than 35% of residents. “These conservative-leaning U.S. states and communities are nowhere near reaching the level of COVID-19 vaccination that could keep them safe from future outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Yahoo News reported.

These are the states that had and continue to be inundated and mislead by the lies spread by former President Donald Trump to downplay the threat of COVID-19. These are also states that had been most resistant to getting the shots.

The problem of inequity is another issue of concern. Based on studies on the distribution of the vaccine across ethnicities, CNN Health reported: “Demographic data has revealed disparities between who is getting vaccinated and who is getting sick.”

“Across nearly all states that have released demographic data, Black and Hispanic residents are getting vaccinated at lower rates than White people, leading to concerns about inequities in vaccine access across the country,” the report stated. This underscores further why people of color are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and its variants.

While the elderly members of the community that were deemed to be most vulnerable to disease had been given top priority in getting full vaccination, the younger ones are the ones now at risk. According to the Times:

“In a federal report released last week, only one-third of adults ages 18 to 39 reported being vaccinated, with especially among those who are Black; among people 24 or younger; and among those who had lower incomes, less education and no health insurance.”

Meanwhile, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “only three in 10 parents of children between the ages of 12 through 17 intended to allow them to be vaccinated immediately. Many say they will wait for long-term safety data or the prod of a school mandate.”

Scientific studies reveal: “Though fully vaccinated people are largely protected from symptomatic and asymptomatic coronavirus infections, studies suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s efficacy against the Delta variant is slightly lower than against other variants; the efficacy is significantly lower for individuals who have received only one dose of the vaccine,” the Times reported.

And countries with relatively high vaccination rates have seen an uptick in infections driven by the Delta variant: Britain, where some two-thirds of the population has received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine and just under half have received two doses, is nonetheless grappling with a sharp rise in infections from the variant.

Studies, however, stress that while getting the vaccine may not protect us 100% from being infected, it protects us from severe symptoms that will cause death.

Other studies, however, suggest optimism in terms of the tools at our disposal to have a better chance of defeating COVID-19 and its variants, especially for those who did not get either Pfizer and Moderna.

Aside from having been proven to have 95% efficacy, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could offer protection for years, the Times reported.

“Mixing Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provides strong protection, according to a preliminary study,” the report said. “A third dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is found to boost immune response.”

So let us all respond to these scientific findings proactively if we want to defeat the virus and its variants: Get vaccinated, wear masks indoors and avoid crowds as much as possible.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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