COVID-19 Delta Variant Cause for Concern Among Unvaccinated Community Members

By: Katie Francis, Follow South Jersey Public Health Intern

SOUTH JERSEY — New Jersey is one of many states in the nation scrambling to fight against the Delta variant of COVID-19 as it becomes the most dominant strain of the virus in the United States.

From March 2020 to mid-to-late June, the leading variant in terms of positivity percentages in New Jersey was the Alpha variant. This strain, formally known as B.1.1.7, accounted for 39.5% of the state’s positive tests. During this time, the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was responsible for only 2.3% of New Jersey’s COVID-19 cases, according to theNew Jersey Department of Health’s website.

Recently, New Jersey has fallen victim to the highly-contagious Delta variant, which is now responsible for 40.7% of the Garden State’s COVID-19 cases in the past four weeks. According to the New Jersey Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, South Jersey has not been hit as hard with positive COVID-19 cases compared to North Jersey.

According to YaleMedicine, the variant was first discovered in December of last year in India. The strain quickly took over as the leading issue in both Great Britain and India’s COVID-19 elimination efforts. The variant is the most contagious and easily transmissible version of the virus, so it’s no surprise that it easily spread to other parts of the world, including the United States.

Although the Delta variant is decidedly more contagious and spreads much more rapidly than other COVID-19 strains, it’s currently unclear as to whether or not it’s more dangerous than other strains. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the COVID-19 vaccine models are just as effective in fighting the Delta variant as others, and unvaccinated community members are at least 25 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than vaccinated people.

Crucially, the CDC and FDA released a joint statement on July 8 backing the current vaccine models and saying that, at this time, there’s no need for a third booster shot to fight it.

The B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and P.1 (Gamma) variants have been classified as variants of concern by the World Health Organization. According to the WHO’s website, this means that each is “A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease…significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”

The WHO recommends that people get vaccinated in order to protect themselves from these variants. However, New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination numbers have slowed due to vaccine hesitancy, but the state has shifted its vaccination effort to a more localized focus this summer.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard reported that, as of Friday morning, 5,150,751 New Jersey residents have taken this advice and received both doses of their vaccinations. The state has administered a total of 10,205,616 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since its effort to inoculate the population began in December.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.