Warning that fully vaccinated may be spreading Delta variant as cases rise across US

Health

The Independent 07 July, 2021 - 04:25pm 39 views

Health experts in the United States have raised the alarm that vaccinated individuals might be spreading the Covid-19 Delta variant, as cases surge in states across the country.

The highly transmissible Delta variant now makes up more than half of new infections in the US.

Currently the B.1.1.7, or Alpha, variant is the dominant strain in the country, But researchers said the Delta variant would likely overtake the Alpha variant in three to four weeks.

Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told Insider that the spread of the Delta variant could actually be worse than current data suggests.

“CDC guidance is not to test the vaccinated [unless they’re symptomatic], so we’re probably missing a bunch of transmission in vaccinated individuals,” Mr Murray said, who is the lead modeller at the IHME, which the White House has leaned on when making pandemic policies.

“We have 14 states where transmission has started to go back up,” he added.

The expert credited the rise in the Delta variant to both unvaccinated Americans and the relaxation of Covid-19 guidance across most of the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its masking guidance in May for vaccinated Americans after more and more people received a jab.

But the spread of the Delta variant has influenced some areas across the US, such as Los Angeles County, to reimpose masking guidance for all residents, vaccinated or not.

Dr Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, was another expert who pushed for Americans to consider re-masking regardless of their vaccination status.

“If you are fully vaccinated and encounter the Delta variant, you are about 90 per cent less likely to be infected than if you had not been vaccinated. And if you do get infected, you are extremely unlikely to get very sick. These facts underlie the CDC’s guidance that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors,” he wrote in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe.

But Dr Jha emphasised that 90 per cent does not give someone full protection, meaning that breakthrough infections and spreading of the virus to others could still occur.

“But here’s another way to see it: 90 per cent is not 100 per cent. And if a vaccinated person encounters the virus repeatedly or in high enough concentrations, the chances of a breakthrough infection gets more substantial,” he said.

States with low vaccination rates have reported higher rates of infections and hospitalisations, fuelling the spread of the Delta variant.

Missouri, for example, reported that 96 per cent of its new Covid-19 cases were because of the Delta variant as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by Scripps Research’s Outbreak.info. This comes as just 39.4 per cent of the population was fully vaccinated against the novel virus.

Arkansas was another state experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, as just 34.6 per cent of the population was fully vaccinated.

In comparison, 47.6 per cent of all US residents were fully vaccinated.

Dr Anthony Fauci encouraged vaccinated residents to wear a mask in areas with high transmission and low vaccination rates to protect themselves as these new variants spread.

“If you put yourself in an environment in which you have a high level of viral dynamics and a very low level of vaccine you might want to go the extra step and say, ‘When I’m in that area where there’s a considerable degree of viral circulation, I might want to go the extra mile, to be cautious enough to make sure that I get the extra added level of protection even though the vaccines themselves are highly effective,’” Dr Facui said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.

Early research has indicated the Delta variant might impact vaccine effectiveness.

A study conducted of Pfizer’s vaccine in Israel, which has not been peer reviewed, found that the vaccine protected 64 per cent of people from infection amid the Delta variant outbreak, which was down from the 94 per cent of people previously protected.

The vaccine was still effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation, though, with a 94 per cent effectiveness rate.

Health experts have been wary towards the report from Israel’s Health Ministry given the study’s authors failed to provide how they conducted the research and who participated.

Read full article at The Independent

With COVID-19 Variant Threats Rising, Why Are Vaccine Stocks Falling? | The Motley Fool

Motley Fool 07 July, 2021 - 05:27pm

Founded in 1993 by brothers Tom and David Gardner, The Motley Fool helps millions of people attain financial freedom through our website, podcasts, books, newspaper column, radio show, and premium investing services.

The stock market has been choppy this week, and Wednesday brought some new fears to the table. Market participants are looking closely at rising incidence of new COVID-19 variants, which could threaten to bring yet another wave of cases to areas where vaccination rates have been less than ideal. By the end of the day, major market benchmarks like the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) had managed to recover their lost ground, but many investors remain nervous.

One thing that was somewhat surprising was the behavior of vaccine stocks amid worries about new COVID-19 variants. Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX), and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) were all sharply lower on the day. Below, we'll look more closely at the moves to try to figure out what's going on.

The declines in vaccine stocks  were quite substantial. BioNTech made out relatively well with a 4% decline. However, Moderna dropped almost 5% on the day, and Novavax was the hardest hit, falling 14%. Other vaccine hopefuls were also weaker, as Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) dropped almost 7% and Ocugen (NASDAQ:OCGN) lost nearly 5%.

Most analysts attributed the declines in vaccine stocks to the delta variant of COVID-19. The delta variant is much more contagious than earlier variants, and it has become the most prevalent cause of COVID-19 in the U.S. recently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that slightly over half of U.S. COVID-19 cases are now coming from the delta variant.

The reason for concern seems to stem from the possibility that as COVID-19 variants evolve, they'll eventually get to the point at which current versions of vaccines are no longer effective. At least based on preliminary data, that doesn't seem to be the case with the delta variant. Existing vaccines from Moderna and BioNTech offer protection against the delta variant, albeit with some indications that efficacy might be somewhat reduced compared to earlier variants.

However, declines in vaccine stocks make little sense in light of ongoing worries about COVID-19. The reasons are simple. First, greater awareness of the importance of vaccination to fight future variant mutations should boost sales of currently available vaccines from these companies.

But even more importantly, investors seem to assume that vaccine producers are standing still. Just as the virus can adapt to changing conditions, companies fighting the virus can adapt to the mutations, looking at ways to improve on existing vaccines. That might involve offering booster shots to those who've already received vaccinations, or it could eventually lead to entirely different vaccination regimens that could prove effective in fighting more aggressive strains of the virus. Sales of those new and existing products could actually help boost vaccine producers' longer-term prospects.

With much of the world only now getting their chance to obtain and distribute vaccines to their populations, nervousness about vaccine stocks seems premature at best. If weakness continues, it'll be hard not to see lower prices for shares of vaccine makers as an opportunity for investors to take advantage of what in hindsight might well look like a bargain.

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Some in US pushing for more COVID restrictions, masking, as Delta variant spreads

Fox News 07 July, 2021 - 05:49am

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The World Health Organization urges fully-vaccinated Americans to wear masks indoors in public places as a precaution as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sticks to its eased COVID guidance; Bryan Llenas has the details.

As the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads around the world and within the United States, some in the U.S. are pushing to bring back health measures from the peak of the pandemic, like mask-wearing, even for vaccinated people. 

No jurisdiction has reinstituted a mask requirement or other similar mandate yet, and officials in some states have said the evidence currently suggests doing so is unnecessary. But other jurisdictions are raising the alarm that the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India, could require a retreat to pandemic health measures. And some individuals are explicitly calling for mask mandates. 

"With increase circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health… strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure," Los Angeles County said in a statement last week. 

Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health, acknowledged that vaccines are "very effective" in protecting against the Delta variant. But, she added, "Mask wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission, especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person."

But others experts say the concern about the Delta variant is overblown and returning to strict health measures could be harmful. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor Dr. Marty Makary told Fox News that guidance like Los Angeles' "sends the wrong message" for increasing vaccination levels.

"While 40-60% more contagious," Makary said of the Delta variant, "the COVID in all its variant forms is circulating at very low levels in the population. The only people who should be concerned are those who do not have immunity either through vaccination or natural immunity."

"At this point, everyone at-risk has had the opportunity to get vaccinated," Makary continued. "Those who are not immune are choosing to do so at their own personal risk."

Markary added that the initial reasoning for COVID restrictions in early 2020 wasn't to prevent all infection but to prevent hospitals from being overrun. "That is no longer a concern… We have to put things in perspective," Markary said. 

The statements from Fauci and Ferrer follow recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) that vaccinated people continue to wear masks. 

"This continues to be extremely important, even if you are vaccinated," WHO Assistant Director General Mariangela Simao said in a news briefing last month of masking and other measures. "People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses." 

Other places in the United States are leaning toward stronger recommendations on public health measures, especially in crowded situations. Among them is Illinois.

"Illinois' access to and utilization of vaccines has allowed us to remove our capacity restrictions in phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week. "But it's imperative that we remember that this doesn't meant that the pandemic is over." 

"Israel, which has led the world in vaccinations, has reinstated its indoor mask mandate and other mitigations in light of fully vaccinated adults getting infected with the Delta variant," Pritzker added. "It is just out of an abundance of caution I wanted to wear a mask today… When we leave our home every day I would encourage everybody whether you're vaccinated or not to bring your mask with you."

Virginia is not instituting a mask mandate, but the deputy director of its epidemiology office recommends those who are vaccinated continue to wear masks, according to WRIC. And the state, at least for now, is requiring that all people in schools continue to wear masks "regardless of vaccination status." 

Others have been more frank in their pro-masking calls. 

Dr. Shad Marvasti of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix told Yahoo Finance bringing back mask mandates "is a good idea." "We don’t want to wait until after the fact and get caught with this thing already ahead of us when we know that masks work," the doctor said.

And the National Education Association last week considered a resolution from Oakland, Calif., delegate Mark Airgood that would call for mandatory vaccination, mask-wearing and social distancing in schools. The resolution was defeated but reflects the sentiment among some that in-person instruction for students in the fall could be in jeopardy without significant pandemic health measures. 

"We need to demand that no student return to in-site instruction until there's vaccines for every student. It makes no sense to bring together young people at a single site, especially when the variants are spreading just as quickly among young people as among adults," Airgood said.

Other officials, meanwhile, are more suspicious of bringing back mask mandates, citing the fact virus numbers are largely down in the U.S.

Washington State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist told King 5 that the state is "not at this time" reimplementing restrictions because the state's "rates are going down" even with the Delta variant. And Michigan officials say they are not planning to reimplement restrictions, The Detroit News reported. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the federal government isn't considering implementing new national health measures beacuse of the United States' vaccination rate. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also touted the fact his state is currently in "really good shape" on coronavirus cases, according to NJ.com

"I hope we don't have to go back," Murphy added. But, he said, "If we have to, we will, clearly." 

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A leading US disease expert says there's 'no doubt in my mind' that vaccinated people are helping spread Delta

Business Insider 07 July, 2021 - 12:00am

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Strangers are standing shoulder to shoulder in bars, fans are singing along at packed indoor concerts, and travelers are flying in numbers not seen since before lockdowns began in 2020.

"While the virus hasn't been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives," President Joe Biden said on Sunday, as hospitalizations, cases, and deaths trended down. "America is coming back together," he added.

But a quiet new wave of severe COVID-19 infections is brewing, fueled by the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant.

"We actually have states where hospitalizations are going up more than cases," Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told Insider, stressing that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may mask the virus' true spread.

As the CDC's guidance is not to test vaccinated people unless they're symptomatic, "we're probably missing a bunch of transmission in vaccinated individuals," Murray said.

Drilling into state-level data reveals how quickly Delta has spread.

"We have 14 states where transmission has started to go back up," said Murray, who's also the lead modeler at the IHME, which the White House has leaned on for disease projections throughout the pandemic.

That's "due to the Delta variant and the fact that everybody's stopped wearing a mask and just basically stopped most precautions," he added.

Disease modelers at Scripps have estimated that Delta could be responsible for about 60% of COVID-19 cases across the US.

COVID-19 vaccines don't prevent every infection — they are designed to better defend your body against the virus. The vaccines authorized in the US do that very well, even against Delta.

Some vaccinated people get a mild, cold-like illness, with a headache and a runny nose. Others could get infected but never know it, becoming silent spreaders.

Delta has wreaked far greater havoc among the unvaccinated. Hospitalizations are trending up in several states, including Missouri, Arkansas, Utah, and Mississippi, according to IHME data. Those are some of the same places where vaccination rates are lagging.

Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King's College London, previously told Insider that while there's no evidence that Delta is deadlier, it is more infectious, and "because of that extra stickiness, it's going to still keep breaking through the vaccine group."

More than half of Scotland is fully vaccinated, and 71% of Scots have received at least one dose of a vaccine. But the country is suffering its worst wave of infections.

"You cannot explain the explosive epidemic in Scotland, in a pretty highly vaccinated population, if they're not playing a role in transmission," Murray said of vaccinated people.

However, Will Lee, the vice president of science at Helix, a testing company helping the CDC track variants, said areas with higher vaccination rates tend to have fewer cases.

Lee pointed to studies indicating that Delta cases are milder in vaccinated people and, therefore, people are not infectious for as long. It stands to reason, he said, that vaccinated people would not transmit as much.

"That window of transmission probably goes down," he said.

A recent real-world study from the UK suggested that Pfizer's vaccine was about 88% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 with Delta, markedly lower than the 95% efficacy against earlier-detected strains.

Vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, too, may be less effective at preventing symptomatic infections with Delta, early lab studies by those companies have suggested.

What's clear is that all three US-authorized vaccines maintain strong protection against severe disease and death, even with the Delta variant.

While natural immunity may help (federal estimates suggest that more than one-third of Americans have had COVID-19), Russia is an example of how prior infections can't halt Delta's spread.

Murray says COVID-19 outbreaks are being investigated in US groups "that are 90%-plus vaccinated."

"That could only be occurring if they're transmitting amongst each other," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind."

That's one reason many infectious-disease experts still wear face masks indoors.

"In our models, we see that even modest mask use combined with vaccination can really put the brakes on even the Delta variant," Murray said.

Why experts are worried about the lambda variant

Deseret News 06 July, 2021 - 09:30pm

The lambda variant was reportedly discovered in Peru. Should you be worried?

Experts recently expressed concern about the COVID-19 lambda variant, which was first detected in Peru back in summer 2020, Fox News reports.

Dr. Jairo Mendez-Rico, a World Health Organization virologist, recently told German news outlet Deutsche Welle that there isn’t enough data to be fully concerned.

However, the World Health Organization said the lambda variant has mutations that could make it resistant to antibodies created by vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are no cases of the lambda variant in the United States right now.

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