Alabama awaits dangerous Delta variant as vaccination rates slow
A more contagious and deadly COVID-19 variant that has ravaged India is spreading across the United States and is likely to become the dominant strain of the virus, threatening largely unvaccinated areas of the country like Alabama.
“It’s a very contagious variant, so it has a competitive advantage over some of the other strains of the virus, and there is also a concern, not definitely documented, but a real concern that if you are infected you are more susceptible. to have a serious illness, “said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases and Vanderbilt University.
So far, 13 cases of the Delta variant have been identified in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Alabama has the second lowest vaccination rate in the country. Only 31.5% of the population was fully vaccinated on Friday, according to the CDC. It’s ahead of the Mississippi only. The number of vaccines administered each day in Alabama has been declining from a peak in April.
Experts say existing COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, but people who haven’t been vaccinated are at risk.
The UAB only had 14 COVID-19 patients in hospital on Wednesday, and not all those hospitalized were vaccinated, UAB epidemiologist Rachel Lee said on a press call on Wednesday. She said she was concerned the Delta variant could cause another peak in COVID-19 this summer among the unvaccinated.
“Based on these modes of transmission and our susceptibility to the virus … (and) with low immunization rates, I’m afraid we may see another wave of cases,” she said, urging unvaccinated people. to continue to wear masks.
But Schaffner at Vanderbilt said a big increase is unlikely, despite the fast-spreading variant.
“I think too many people have been vaccinated so far for this to happen, but you could have local outbreaks of infection,” Schaffner said. He noted that the population is fairly distributed across many rural areas in states like Alabama with lower vaccination rates. This can be an advantage to prevent the spread.
David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke Medical Center, lamented that many of the people most vulnerable to the Delta variant, those who have not received a vaccine, are the least likely to recognize their own risk.
“They really need to take this seriously and their risk of getting infected more seriously than ever,” he said. “(The Delta variant) is winning in this region, remarkably fast.”
Alabama’s political leaders have ignored the idea of offering incentives to increase vaccination rates, as have many other states.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, during a layover in Orange Beach on Wednesday, was evasive of the idea of an incentive to increase the vaccination rate.
She jokingly asked a reporter, “What do you want to give? when she was asked about the matter.
Ivey then added, “It’s a matter of personal responsibility. We will not force everyone to get vaccinated. We want to encourage our young people to get vaccinated.
When asked if there were no incentive programs in the works, Ivey simply smiled and moved on to other questions.
The virus will continue to mutate and the high vaccination rate in parts of the population will only increase pressure on the virus to change to survive, Montefiori said.
“Now is the time for the virus to be susceptible to acquiring more serious mutations as it now faces the immunity that vaccines develop in people,” he said.
Schaffner said it was essential for more people in the South to get vaccinated, but he is not optimistic the needle will go far due to a lack of leadership.
“I would like the business community to intensify,” he said. “And where are the religious leaders? Why don’t they preach the gospel that being kind to others, doing to others, as you put it during a COVID pandemic, is getting yourself vaccinated? “