The coronavirus’s Delta variant, which was first identified in India late last year and which now accounts for approximately 20 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States,
is expected to become the dominant strain of the virus in the coming months — if not sooner, according to experts.
That is because it appears to be roughly 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which is currently dominant in the U.S. and is itself more transmissible than the original, “wild-type” coronavirus variant.
New data suggests that the Delta variant, in addition to being more infectious, may also double the risk of hospitalization for those who are not vaccinated.
Given that there’s now a more transmissible and potentially more dangerous variant circulating in the country, the focus has turned to young people 12 and older, who are less likely to get vaccinated, and to children younger than that, who aren’t eligible yet for the COVID-19 vaccines. Experts like former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb are now warning that “we’re going to see that children and schools do become more of a focal point of spread” as schools reopen later this summer.
On Friday, President Biden warned that the Delta variant is “particularly dangerous for young people,” who are more socially active and less likely to be vaccinated than older adults.
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a public health professor at George Washington University, told Yahoo News, “We should be concerned in general about all individuals who are not yet vaccinated and who do not have immunity to COVID-19.” She explained that a more contagious variant “means that the activities that we once thought were safe are now riskier.”
More data is needed, but scientists believe that the Delta strain is likely to be more contagious in all age groups than previous strains, but that it is not necessarily more transmissible in kids.
Wen said that studies so far show Delta is “more likely to result in hospitalization, not necessarily among children, but that it is more severe, in general.” As a mother of two young children, she said this concerns her, because although children are less likely to contract severe cases of the illness, some have developed serious complications after becoming infected.