Sunday, June 13

UNC expert stresses importance of vaccine as Delta COVID variant gains steam –

Another COVID strain could soon become more prevalent in the United States.

The Delta variant, first identified in India in October 2020, is now listed as a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization.

The U.S. does not do intense tracking of COVID strains, but a CDC report last month shows the Delta variant makes up less than 3% of all variants detected in the U.S. The Alpha variant — formerly known as the B117 or U.K. variant — is now the dominant strain of COVID in the U.S.

Dr. David Wohl with UNC is among the experts who fear that could soon change, due to the fact that Delta is considered more transmissible than previous strains. British health officials said Monday the Delta variant could be 40% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.

Wohl says UNC Health has not identified any cases of Delta in the U.S. thus far but that it feels inevitable.

“The Delta variant is going to spread, it’s going to, and it’s up to us to determine how far and wide,” Wohl said. “And in Britain, where they are seeing the Delta variant start to emerge, they are seeing case numbers go up among the unvaccinated. That’s really, really important. And the people who are getting sick, are people who are not fully vaccinated.”

The news isn’t all bad, however. Wohl says that situations like this are exactly why it’s so important to get vaccinated.

“The good news is, of course, is that when people are vaccinated, they just don’t get infected hardly as much,” Wohl said. “And if they do, probably for shorter periods of time, and likely have less virus to shed to other people. I do think people who are fully vaccinated are well protected and will not get sick from this.”

Only 50 percent of adults in North Carolina have received both doses to this point. Wohl says until people around the world are vaccinated, new variants will continue to circulate.

“If you’re unvaccinated, this is why we’re we keep beating the drum, because this is a more probably a more dangerous, more catchy virus, and it’s here, and it’s gonna look for people like you, that’s where it’s gonna spread in people who are not vaccinated,” he explained.

Wohl says this type of preparation isn’t anything North Carolinians aren’t used to.

“We in North Carolina know how to prepare for hurricanes — this is a storm that’s coming,” Wohl said. “It’s spreading across the world. Whatever happens in the UK, eventually happens here.”

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