Delta variant is top COVID concern

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/1/2021, midnight
Over 9.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in New York City and over 53% of New York State ...
Mobile COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic in the Bronx Cyril Josh Barker photo

Over 9.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in New York City and over 53% of New York State residents are fully vaccinated. While that might sound like good news, several neighborhoods in the city are still seeing low vaccination rates as the threat of the Delta variant of the virus gets serious.

Seven zip codes in Central Brooklyn and Southeast Queens with mostly Black and Latino residents continue to see vaccination rates between 30% and 34%. Black New Yorkers make up 28% of those fully vaccinated in the city.

While the city and state have lifted the majority of COVID-19 restrictions, the Delta variant is spreading rapidly. The variant is 40% and 60% more transmissible and may cause more severe disease. Reports indicate that the Delta variant represented 23% of new COVID-19 cases during the last week.

City officials are urging those who are unvaccinated to get their shot due to the Delta variant being a more dangerous strain of the virus. Officials confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccine is responsive to the variant. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, for example, is 88% effective against the Delta variant.

“If you’ve been waiting to get vaccinated, this is one more reason why you should run, not walk to get your vaccine,” Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said Tuesday. “And we know that every single dose of the vaccination is another brick in the wall against not just the Delta variant, but all of the variants of the virus.”

This week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there have been over 4,100 breakthrough COVID-19 cases that have resulted in hospitalization or death. However, this is a small fraction of the over 150 million people who have been vaccinated. Over 75% of breakthrough cases occurred in patients aged 65 and over.

In an interview with the AmNews, Dr. David Kessler, chief science officer of the White House COVID Response Team, confirmed that the Delta variant is rapidly increasing around the country and the proportion of the variant has increased to 20% over the last few weeks. In the United Kingdom, the Delta variant accounts for 90% of new COVID cases among unvaccinated people between ages 12 and 20.

“Areas that have higher vaccination are more protected,” Kessler said. “The more people vaccinated, the less the virus or the Delta variant is going to be able to find people to infect. It’s a matter of just sheer logic and math. In those communities where the vaccination is lower, you’re going to see the Delta variant and other variants continue to increase and cause disease.”

Along with Black neighborhoods in New York City, many Southern states with large Black populations continue to lag behind the rest of the nation in getting people fully vaccinated. In Mississippi, for example, only 29% of residents are fully vaccinated. Blacks in that state make up 36% of those fully vaccinated compared to 58% of whites.

“We want to make sure that everyone has access to having a free vaccine,” Kessler said. “For many people, it’s just fear, or they just want to make sure that the vaccine has been studied enough. There are now 300 million shots in arms with a remarkably safe vaccine profile. Yes, there’s always some risks and we put out what those risks are. People need to understand that this is a case where the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.”

Kessler added that he recognizes the concerns from people who are hesitant about the vaccine and understands their fears.

“We’ve taken great efforts to increase supply and have multiple channels,” he said. “It’s now very easy to walk in and get a vaccine. The most important thing is to be fully transparent and let people know everything we know about this vaccine and be able to answer people’s questions.”