The pandemic continues to be a race between a more virulent and mutating virus and the availability of vaccinations with high degrees of protection.

At this time, 70% of eligible Americans have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination, while many other nations struggle to get a sufficient supply of vaccines.

While vaccination availability is ubiquitous in the U.S, so is the Delta form of the coronavirus, which was discovered in December in India. Now, a variation of that strain called “Delta Plus” has been discovered in a number of nations, including South Korea, Portugal, U.k, and India.

According to infectious disease specialists, the highly contagious Delta variant is fueling large-scale epidemics among the unvaccinated.

“What makes the variation concerning is that it is a highly contagious form of COVID-19 that can easily infect unvaccinated individuals,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja told Healthline. “If individuals who are not vaccinated are at a high risk of hospitalization and there are a large number of them in a geographic region, this may be an issue for hospitals.”

That is what is happening in states like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, where local officials have opposed simple measures such as mask requirements while vaccination rates among young people remain low.

Meanwhile, in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, which has the highest vaccination rates in the US, local officials have reinstated a requirement that individuals wear masks inside in public, regardless of their immunisation status. This is related to an increase in infections caused by the Delta virus.

According to Arnab Mukherjea, up to 99 percent of individuals who develop severe COVID-19 disease are unvaccinated, although no vaccine is 100 % effective.

 Mukherjea told Healthline that something terrible is always going to happen to a person who did everything right and that virtually everything we observe is due to the Delta variant.

Delta is more contagious!

When a virus is given ample time and people to infect, mutations occur, which Covid-19 has had in plenty — about 200 million cases and counting.

Adalja said that it was a foregone conclusion that a more infectious variety would emerge. This was apparent with the Alpha version prior to its replacement by the Delta variant.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said Monday at a White House press conference that the United States experienced a 44 percent spike in new cases over a seven-day period, reaching 72,000 cases each day. That is higher than the previous summer’s peak in the United States.

Both hospital admissions and fatalities increased as well.

According to Walensky, research indicates that the Delta form is much more contagious. Someone infected with the Alpha version – the first coronavirus variation discovered — is capable of infecting two additional individuals. The estimate is near to 5 or more with the Delta. Additionally, individuals who are infected with the Delta virus have a larger viral load, which means they are carrying a greater amount of the virus that may transmit to other people.

The CDC said in a letter that the Delta form is as contagious as chickenpox, which was a virus that was far more prevalent in the United States until a vaccine was introduced in 1995. This means Delta may infect a greater number of individuals in a shorter amount of time, resulting in pockets of transmission usually among the unvaccinated population.

“While we badly want to be over with this epidemic, COVID-19 is obviously not through with us, and so our fight must continue,” Walensky added.

That is why the CDC now advises that everyone wear masks inside, even children who are not yet vaccine-eligible but are returning to school.

Delta variant and the vaccines

While experts are concerned about what the variants, especially Delta, may bring, they say there is the reason for optimism because vaccines — specifically, the vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer prevent people from developing severe COVID-19 infections that could result in hospitalization or death.

In a July study, researchers from the United Kingdom discovered “very minor variations in vaccination efficacy” between AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines against the Delta variant and the Alpha variant after two recommended doses.

Additionally, recent research from Imperial College London indicates that unvaccinated individuals are three times likelier to test positive for coronavirus than those who are properly vaccinated. Additionally, researchers said that individuals who are completely vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus to others.

That is excellent news for vaccinated individuals who want to assemble securely with other vaccinated individuals who do not live together.

Walensky said that there is usually less severe illness in areas with a higher vaccination rate, even in cases of breakthrough infections among individuals who are completely vaccinated for COVID-19.

“While vaccinated individuals may transmit the virus if they acquire a breakthrough infection, their chances of becoming ill are much lower than those who are not vaccinated,” she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease specialist, warned reporters at that conference that infections that are breakthrough  are “expected and often asymptomatic.”

Since July 26, just 6,587 cases of breakthrough infections resulting in hospitalization or death have been reported among 163 million fully vaccinated individuals.

“That is a proportion of less than 0.01 percent,” Fauci said. “The main conclusion is that they are uncommon, and they seldom end in hospitalization or death – not infrequently, but unusually.”

He said that COVID vaccinations provide effective protection against the Delta variant, which protects people, their families, and their community.

While scientists are afraid that more strong and infectious variations may develop before the pandemic is over, they are also concerned about the devastation that the Delta variant may cause.

As the Delta variety spreads, one major concern is that hospital systems may once again become overloaded and unable to properly treat all patients. This is why attempts to have individuals vaccinated or, at the very least, checked if they exhibit symptoms are being stepped up.

However, public health authorities want to ensure that everyone who can is vaccinated.

“The aim is to mitigate the harm caused by these variations by immunizing high-risk individuals,” Adalja said.

While there will always be a baseline of instances, Adalja said that the vaccination significantly lowers the severity of those cases. Reintroduction of mask orders — especially among the fully vaccinated — will have little effect in the aggregate, he added.

“Mask wearing by the vaccinated will have little effect on the topic of the pandemic, which is being pushed by the unvaccinated,” he said.