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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Is delta variant a bigger problem than other Variants of Concern?

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

The highly transmissible Delta strain, originally identified in India, is sweeping the globe as governments scramble to vaccinate their people in order to fend off further outbreaks and reintroduce economic activity and everyday life.

This week’s news headlines varied from an increase in US cases after months of decrease to infections rising by more than 500 percent in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, politicians who prematurely opened their nations or who ignored the significance of masks were forced to eat their words.

If the incontrovertible scientific proof and pandemic statistics from across the globe weren’t enough, the World Health Organization summed up the danger on Wednesday with the following: According to its director, the enhanced transmissibility associated with the Delta variation is expected to result in significant increases in case occurrence and increasing strain on healthcare systems, especially in areas with poor vaccination coverage.

According to what we now know, individuals who have been completely vaccinated against the coronavirus seem to be protected against Delta, but the verdict is yet out on whether vaccination alone will be sufficient protection against the new version.

The issue is exacerbated further by an information glut and rapidly changing research that makes previous knowledge obsolete. However, we attempted to collect five facts about which scientists are quite confident and which are being exploited to influence policy choices.

More infectious

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the Delta strain, also known as B.1.617.2, may spread more readily. The strain contains the genetic code from two additional alterations, E484Q and L452R, which aids it in infiltrating the human immune system and invading organs.

In fact, experts claim that the Delta version is approximately 50 percent more infectious than the Alpha variant, which was already 50 percent more contagious than the original coronavirus discovered in China in 2019.

“In a completely unmitigated environment, where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks, it is estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people. In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people,” Dr F Perry Wilson of Yale School of Medicine states.

Antibodies

Several laboratory studies indicate that the Delta strain seems to be more resistant to vaccinations than other versions.

British research published in the medical journal The Lancet in early June examined levels of neutralizing antibodies generated in vaccinated individuals exposed to the Delta, Alpha (originally discovered in the UK), and Beta (first identified in South Africa) strains.

It discovered that in the presence of the Delta variant, antibody levels in individuals who received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot were six times lower than in the presence of the original COVID-19 strain on which the vaccine was based.

According to French research conducted by the Pasteur Institute, neutralizing antibodies generated by immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are three to six times less efficient against the Delta variant than against the Alpha.

According to the same research, the levels of neutralizing antibodies generated against the Delta variant were “virtually undetectable” following a single injection of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, both of which are two-dose regimens.

Covid vaccines continue to be effective but if you’re fully vaccinated

Although they are an important sign, antibody levels tested in a lab are insufficient to establish a vaccine’s effectiveness.
They specifically fail to account for a second immune reaction in the form of killer T cells, which target infected cells rather than the virus itself.

As a consequence, real-world observations are critical for determining vaccination efficacy, and the first findings are encouraging.

According to data released by Public Health England, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 percent effective against symptomatic illness caused by the Delta variant two weeks after the second dosage, compared to 93% efficacy against the Alpha version.

According to research involving 14,000 individuals, two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab prevent 96 percent of hospitalizations due to the Delta strain, while AstraZeneca protects 92 percent.

The disease’s development may be more severe

While additional research is required, early data on the severity of Delta include a Scottish study that found the Delta strain was about twice as likely as Alpha to result in hospitalization in uninfected people (and vaccines reduced that risk significantly).

May show different symptoms

According to the New York Times, physicians in Southeast China are saying that patients are getting worse and their illnesses are deteriorating faster than those they treated at the outset of the epidemic.

The experience in India has been similar, with individuals reporting symptoms ranging from diarrhoea to headaches, and the tell-all sign of loss of smell and taste is no longer considered the defining difference between ordinary flu and COVID-19.

Another article on the Gavi vaccination alliance’s website said that another research from the United Kingdom also indicated that the symptoms linked with COVID-19 may be evolving. Since the beginning of May, the most often reported symptom by app users with a confirmed illness has been headache, followed by sore throat, a runny nose, and fever.

“Cough is rarer and we don’t even see loss of smell coming up in the top ten anymore,” said Prof Tim Spector, who is heading the research.

So, is the delta variant a greater issue than the early phases of a pandemic?

Because of the enhanced transmissibility associated with the Delta variant, as well as decreased caution and COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, it is expected to become the dominant strain worldwide in the next months.

Furthermore, there are still gaps in epidemiological monitoring, testing, and genetic sequencing in many areas of the globe, limiting our capacity to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of existing and future variations in a timely way.

Image Credit: Getty

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