MINNESOTA, USA — Kris Ehresmann with the Minnesota Department of Health says the Delta variant is getting a lot of attention these days in the world of infectious diseases, and rightfully so.
"We are concerned about the rise of Delta globally and in the United States,” Ehressman says.
Right now, the Delta variant is causing a lot of problems in several countries overseas where cases are spiking.
Ehressman says cases are also going up here in the U.S. and in Minnesota, but the situation isn’t quite as dire.
"Here in Minnesota, three weeks ago the Delta variant made up less than one-percent of the cases. Now, in June, it has made up more than 10%, so we’ve really seen it increase quickly,” Ehresmann says.
Ehresmann says the data here in Minnesota also shows the Delta variant is more likely to spread and more likely to put people in the hospital.
She says 15% of Minnesotans who contracted the Delta variant ended up in the hospital, which is a much higher rate than any other variant of the virus.
“The jury is out globally as to whether or not Delta will be more severe, but at least in Minnesota, at this point, we are seeing a higher rate of cases being hospitalized,” Ehresmann says.
But the data is also showing that vaccines are helping.
"You can have some confidence, but not be overconfident that it's helping you,” Dr. Deepti Pandita at Hennepin Healthcare says.
The data shows that the vaccines in the United States are offering a strong level of protection from the Delta variant, but Dr. Pandita is worried about the low vaccination rates in many communities across the country.
"Our vaccine rates aren't as high as we would have anticipated at this point and that’s a concern,” Dr. Pandita says.
That’s why she’s worried about the Delta variant getting into a city or county that has a low vaccination rate.
If that happens, she’s concerned cases could spike and the virus could possibly mutate even further into another variant.
That's why she doesn't agree with Pfizer's request to start giving people a 3rd dose of the vaccine later this summer.
The company made an announcement this week that their data shows booster shots will be needed to maintain high levels of antibodies in patients.
The company also announced that in August they would request emergency use authorization from the FDA to start giving out booster shots.
"I think we still have a long way to go even with first and second dose shots. We still have a long way to go for shots with children,” Dr. Pandita says.
While Pfizer argues their data shows booster shots are needed, Dr. Pandita feels there isn't data to support that just yet.
"We don't even know how long the immune effect of the vaccine lasts as of now. Do we require it every two years, five years every ten years, I mean, none of that is known yet."