Hot Topics in Infection Prevention: Delta Attacks, Vaccinations Stall, Long COVID Settles In

The threat of novel variants that are more transmissible is deeply worrisome as we work to vaccinate the world.

As the Delta Variant Advances, Vaccination Rates Stall

As we’re moving more into this novel stage of COVID-19, where guidance for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated exists and we’re all trying to understand what that means for the general population, the concern is more now about trying to ensure global vaccine equity and the threat of variants. The newest variant of concern (VOC) is Delta, which was first identified in India and has caused a tremendous amount of suffering across India, the United Kingdom, and is now spreading within the United States.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that as the Delta variant

has become the dominant strain in the U.K., it now accounts for 10% of all cases in the United States. This is an increase from the 2.7% in late May. The threat of novel variants that are more transmissible is deeply worrisome as we work to vaccinate the world. While the U.S. has made great progress—New York announced that 70% of adults have at least one vaccine does—it’s odd as we feel so past COVID-19, while the rest of the world struggles to vaccinate.

Consider that Australia has only administered 5.9 million doses (23 per 100 people) or Ukraine has administered fewer than 2 million doses. Simply put, we have a long road to go and where viral transmission occurs, variants will continue to pop up. This is an important reminder within the U.S. as well, as cases are dropping in vaccinated areas and rising in those states with lower vaccination rates.

A recent Washington Post analysis found that states with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates. The Washington Post recently did an analysis and found that states with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates. “Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions,” the newspaper reports. “Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals.”

Moreover: Vaccination rates vary within states, finding more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (lower than 20%) and more than 700 counties with high vaccination rates (at least 40% vaccinated).

CDC Provides Treatment Guidance for Long-COVID

As the U.S. COVID-19 cases continue to decline (keeping in mind that vaccination rates have also been declining), more attention is given to post-COVID conditions, or long COVID. The CDC provides resources for follow-up clinical care. Effective post-COVID care includes items like: “Providing holistic patient-centered management approaches to improve patient quality of life and function and partnering with patients to identify achievable health goals, facilitating standardized, trauma-informed approaches to assessing symptoms and conditions, setting expectations with patients and their families that outcomes from post-COVID conditions differ among patients. Some patients may experience symptom improvement within the first three months, whereas others may continue to experience prolonged symptoms, etc.” This guidance will be important for clinicians and health care providers moving forward and we hopefully see a dwindling number of cases—yesterday saw nearly 13,000—our work will shift to sustained COVID response as it likely becomes endemic, but also caring for those with long-COVID.