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Why health experts are nervous about the new Delta variant

Vaccine efficacy isn't too much of a concern right now, but health experts say data suggests there is a slight decrease in effectiveness against the Delta variant.

COLORADO, USA — Colorado is in a race between COVID-19 vaccinations and emerging cases of different coronavirus variants. 

More than 50% of eligible Coloradans have received a vaccine. Roughly 40% of COVID-19 cases in the state are of the more contagious Delta variant according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

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"The new variant, Delta, has really upped my anxiety level," said John Douglas, the executive director for the Tri-County Public Health Department. "It’s more serious. The data out of the U.K. suggests the rate of hospitalization of people who get the Delta variant may be over twice as high." 

In a news conference Monday, Dr. Rachel Herlihy with CDPHE said people who are unvaccinated have a much greater chance of becoming infected than they did earlier in the pandemic. 

"If you are exposed to COVID-19 now, and are infected, your chances of being hospitalized now are much greater," Herlihy said. 

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Douglas said vaccination rates need to increase across the board to prevent more variants from emerging. 

"It’s a lot more transmissible than what we were experiencing during the dark days of November, December and January," Douglas said. "It’s probably at least twice as transmissible."

Health experts said data out of the U.K. show the Pfizer vaccine is now about 88% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, compared to 93% effectiveness against the original U.K. variant, which is now called the alpha variant. 

"So it's almost as good if you get two doses. If you only get one dose, it's only about 33%." Douglas said. "There is just a perfect storm of incredibly important reasons for anybody who’s been thinking about it to go and step up and get the vaccine."

Herlihy said they expect the Delta variant to become the dominant variant in the next couple of weeks. 


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