Is the delta variant more deadly than the rest of the COVID variants?

is the delta variant more deadly
Photo via Alachua County/Flickr (Public Domain)

The delta variant is already the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S., according to data modeling from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But is the delta variant more deadly than the rest of the coronavirus strains that have been spreading across the world?

The delta variant originated in India in December 2020, and it was first detected in the U.S. in March 2021. As of July 5, the variant has been reported in a total of 96 countries, according to the World Health Organization

With it now spreading across the rest of the globe so quickly, many people have begun to wonder just how dangerous it really is.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevented labeled the delta variant as a “variant of concern” on June 11. This means it seems to spread more easily and quickly than the original virus and other variants, and that can inevitably lead to more cases of COVID-19. 

Some studies suggest that the delta variant is between 40-60% more transmissible than the alpha variant first identified in the U.K.—which was already 50% more transmissible than the original virus. 

“It is the most hyper-transmissible, contagious version of the virus we’ve seen to date, for sure—it’s a superspreader strain if there ever was one,” Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine and an executive vice president at the Scripps Research Institution, told Scientific American.

According to a study in Scotland, originally published in the Lancet, the hospitalization rate of patients with the delta variant was about 85% higher than that of patients with the alpha variant. However, there was not enough data yet to say whether the delta variant is more deadly than the other COVID-19 variants. 

So far, vaccines do appear to adequately protect against the delta variant, although single doses seem to offer less protection.

According to a preprint study by Public Health England, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 96% and 92% effective, respectively, at preventing hospitalization due to the delta variant. A recent study from Israel, though, showed the Pfizer vaccine dropping to 64% effectiveness against the delta variant.

The delta variant poses low risks to fully vaccinated people. In fact, Topol said “you should not worry at all” if you have had two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. However, it’s not as clear how well the Johnson & Johnson vaccine protects against it.

Topol said vaccination is the best tool for combatting the growing delta surge. Since it’s unrealistic that U.S. leaders will reinstate a lockdown or other pandemic restrictions, leaders should focus on getting more people vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

Read more on the delta variant: 

Sources: WHO, CDC, Scientific American, Lancet, Public Health England

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