A sign warning people to stay separated due to Covid-19 can be seen in Mevagissey, UK on July 29, 2021.
Finnbarr Webster | Getty Images News | Getty Images
More than a year after the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is struggling with a highly transmissible Delta variant that has caused a renewed surge in infections in countries from the UK and the US. those in Africa and Asia.
The Delta variant, which was first discovered in India last October, has been found in more than 130 countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Delta is the most commonly transmitted variant of the coronavirus, first emerging in China in late 2019, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist and technical director for Covid-19 at the WHO.
“The virus itself is, as it begins, a dangerous virus, a highly transmissible virus. The Delta variant is even more – it is twice more transmissible than the ancestral strain, it is 50% more transmissible than the Alpha strain, ”she said at a WHO press conference last week.
The alpha variant was first discovered in Great Britain
Globally, the number of reported Covid-19 cases exceeded 200 million on Wednesday and more than 4.2 million people have died from it, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed.
Delta variant prevalence
Delta is one of four “variants of concern” listed by the WHO. Such variants are thought to be more contagious, more resistant to current vaccines and treatments, or could cause more serious illness.
The delta variant has become the dominant Covid-19 pathogen in many countries.
According to genetically sequenced coronavirus samples collected by GISAID, around 65 countries have discovered cases of Covid caused by the Delta variant in the four weeks leading up to August 5.
GISAID is a platform for scientists to share information about viruses, and their data is widely used by the global scientific community, including the WHO.
Covid Delta variant prevalence data likely underestimate the real situation as some countries do not share sequenced samples with GISAID while others may not have the ability and resources to perform virus sequencing.
In 55 of these countries, the delta variant accounted for more than half of the virus samples submitted, according to data compiled by GISAID.
Effectiveness of the vaccine
The Covid Delta variant has not spared countries with some of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
Israel, where more than 62% of the population is fully vaccinated, reported an increase in daily cases last month as Delta became the dominant strain in the country.
When the Delta variant spread in Israel, the Ministry of Health found that the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine dropped to just 39% with two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, although protection against serious illnesses remained high. The country has started giving booster injections to people over the age of 60.
But a study in the UK, where the Delta variant is also fueling a surge in infections, found that two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine were almost as effective against Delta as against the Alpha variant.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, used real world data and found that two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective against the Delta variant. That’s compared to 93.7% versus the Alpha strain, it said.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was found to be 67% effective against Delta, compared with 74.5% against the Alpha variant.
However, vaccination progress has remained inconsistent around the world. Many poorer developing countries are lagging behind due to their lack of access to Covid-19 vaccines.
On Wednesday, WHO urged rich nations to stop distributing booster vaccines, highlighting global injustice in vaccines.
Aside from getting more people vaccinated, WHO’s Van Kerkhove said there are steps individuals can take to better protect themselves from the Delta variant. That includes wearing a mask, keeping your hands clean, and spending more time outdoors than indoors, she said last week.
“This won’t be the last variant of the virus you will hear us talk about,” she added. “The virus is likely to become more transmissible because viruses do just that – they develop, they change over time, and so we have to do everything we can to contain it.”