Health officials urge vaccinations as Delta variant circulates

Posted at 11:25 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 09:59:47-04

TAMPA, Fla. — While federal health officials are marking progress in the fight against COVID-19 this weekend, they’re also focusing on those yet to be vaccinated with the Delta variant circulating.

“I just want to be protected,” said Jason Gonzalez.

The 20-year-old just received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas in Wimauma. Gonzalez works for the organization, but also explained easier access to the vaccine through this event helped him. Behind Gonzalez’s decision was also a focus on family.

“I don’t want to be the cause of them catching it. And also just my own safety and health as well,” Gonzalez said.

Right now health officials are continuing to urge those not yet vaccinated to roll up their sleeves. Federal officials said they’re ready to mobilize COVID-19 surge response teams to work with communities across the country experiencing or at risk of outbreaks due to the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.

“It is clear that communities, where people remain unvaccinated, are communities that remain vulnerable this is all true as we monitor the continued spread of the hyper transmissible Delta variant,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC.

The CDC said it’s estimated about a quarter of reported sequences nationwide are the Delta variant, and it’s predicted to be the second most prevalent variant in the US. The agency has said preliminary data indicates there may be an increased risk of hospitalization associated with it, though more studies are needed.

The CDC said available data indicates vaccines authorized in the US are effective against the variant.

During a press briefing Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed to several studies of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.

“What about J&J? A question often asked,” said Fauci. “There's indirect evidence for the effectiveness of J&J against the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant. And the reason is that the effectiveness of this vaccine is similar to a vaccine for which we do have data, namely the AZ, the data that I just showed you.”

CDC sequenced data shows about 3 percent of the Delta variant and 15 percent of the Gamma variant (P1) for a four-week period ending June 5.

State data shows sequences of the Delta variant in local Tampa Bay counties.

Regionally, USF College of Public Health distinguished university professor Thomas Unnasch Ph.D., provided more context on the regional level.

“In our region, it’s around 11 percent or 12 percent. So you can see that this is expanding very rapidly and like I said I think it’s going to be the dominant variant that we’re going to be seeing in the state probably by the end of July,” said Unnasch.

Federal officials explained they’re asking those not yet vaccinated to wear a mask and avoid crowds.

“This virus is now as infective as smallpox is so that means it’s really really infectious and if you haven’t been vaccinated the chances that you’re going to get this really has just gone up exponentially,” Unnasch said.