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Covid-19: Delta infecting even fully vaccinated at a greater rate – Times of India

Representative photo: PTI

NEW DELHI: The Delta variant is the fastest, fittest and most formidable version of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about the disease even as nations loosen restrictions and open their economies, according to virologists and epidemiologists.

Vaccine protection remains very strong against severe infections and hospitalisations caused by any version of the virus, and those most at risk are still the unvaccinated, according to leading Covid-19 experts.

The major worry about the Delta variant is not that it makes people sicker, but that it spreads far more easily from person to person, increasing infections and hospitalisations among the unvaccinated. Evidence is also mounting that it is capable of infecting fully vaccinated people at a greater rate than previous versions, and concerns have been raised that they may even spread the virus, these experts said.

“The biggest risk to the world at the moment is simply Delta,” said microbiologist Sharon Peacock. Until there is more data on its transmission, experts say masks, social distancing and other measures set aside in countries with broad vaccination campaigns may again be needed.

Public Health England said that of those hospitalised in Britain with the Delta variant, 58.3% were unvaccinated and 22.8% were fully vaccinated. In Singapore, where Delta is the most common variant, 75% of its cases occurred among vaccinated individuals. Israeli officials said 60% of current hospitalised cases were in vaccinated people. In the US, the Delta variant represents about 83% of new infections. So far, unvaccinated people represent nearly 97% of severe cases.

The Pfizer vaccine, one of the most effective against Covid-19 so far, appeared only 41% effective at halting symptomatic infections in Israel over the past month as the Delta variant spread.

A study in China found that people infected with the Delta variant carry 1,000 times more virus in their noses compared with the ancestral Wuhan strain. “You may actually excrete more virus and that’s why it’s more transmissible. That’s still being investigated,” Peacock said.

“It’s outcompeting all other viruses because it just spreads so much more efficiently,” said virologist Shane Crotty.

Genomics expert Eric Topolnoted that Delta infections have a shorter incubation period and a far higher amount of viral particles. “That’s why the vaccines are going to be challenged. The people who are vaccinated have got to be especially careful. This is a tough one,” Topol said.

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