The delta variant is on its way to becoming the dominant COVID strain in the U.S.

covid delta variant uk most dominant strain london
Photo via Sean MacEntee/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A report from The BMJ published June 4 named the delta variant of COVID-19 the most dominant strain of the virus in the United Kingdom, and that could spell trouble in the fight against the pandemic—including in the United States, where vaccines have improved conditions but have not yet entirely defeated the coronavirus.

“This is a concern,” The BMJ noted, “because there is evidence that the risk of hospital admission is higher in people with the delta variant … Data also indicate that the variant is spreading rapidly through England’s schools.”

The delta strain, first detected in India, has become the most dominant COVID strain in the U.K., overtaking the alpha variant.

As former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a Face the Nation interview on June 13 that the delta variant could be the main source of new U.S. COVID-19 infections in the next three months. It could even lead to new outbreaks—especially among those Americans who have yet to be vaccinated.

“Right now, in the United States, it’s about 10% of infections. It’s doubling every two weeks,” Gottlieb said in that interview, as reported by CBS News. “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to see a sharp uptick in infections, but it does mean that this is going to take over. And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall.”

It can also reportedly affect vaccinated Americans. The Las Vegas Sun reported that a vaccinated individual from the Hawaiian island of Oahu who traveled to Nevada in May tested positive for the delta variant of COVID-19.

Scientists in the U.K estimate it is between 40%-80% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has recently expressed concern about the strain. “In the U.K., the Delta variant is rapidly emerging as the dominant variant … It is replacing the B.1.1.7 (first found in the U.K.),” Fauci said, via CNBC “We cannot let that happen in the United States.”

The World Health Organization, weighing in, said, “We continue to observe significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant.”

Fauci pointed out, as a recent study underscored, the importance of vaccination in guarding against the delta strain.

A study the British government conducted in April and May analyzed more than 12,000 sequenced COVID cases, and it found Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to be highly effective against the delta variant, according to ABC News. That efficacy, though, is lower for the delta variant than for the alpha variant of COVID-19.

The study only looked at the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, with the Pfizer “88% effective against symptomatic disease two weeks after the second dose,” and with the AstraZeneca vaccine performing with 60% efficacy during that span. It is believed that Moderna—which, like Pfizer, is an mRNA vaccine—would have similar efficacy to the Pfizer results.

As the CNBC story noted, “Fauci stressed the importance of getting two doses after (National Institutes of Health) studies showed that, three weeks after being given, just one dose of either vaccine provided only 33% efficacy against the Delta variant.”

Read more on the coronavirus variants:

Sources: BMJ, CBS News, Las Vegas Sun, CNBC, ABC News

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