A new covid-19 variant known as “Delta” or “B.1.617.2,” has appeared in recent weeks that could dwarf all other variants in terms of danger. The delta variant first appeared in India last December and has now spread heavily into the United Kingdom and recently into America. The delta variant has also been seen in Russia, Portugal, Indonesia, and some others. The delta variant is just one of many variants that have arisen throughout the world health crisis. Two other prominent strains that have appeared are the “Alpha” variant initially found in the United Kingdom and the “Gamma” variant, which first appeared in Brazilian travellers. South Africa also had its variant of the disease known as the “Beta” variant or “B.1.351”.
The delta variant has raised alarm bells because of specific features that differentiate it from other variants identified in the past. First, the delta variant’s transmissibility is two times higher than the initially identified strain of covid-19, which is already alarming; However, the new strain also has better resistance to an immune response which prevents antibodies from being effective. These mutations make the new strain tougher and faster than any other variant seen before. The current lack of effective treatment makes getting the delta variant a near-death sentence for older or immunocompromised individuals.
Delta’s increased transmissibility is extremely dangerous, given that many countries are stalling on vaccinating their populations. Unvaccinated individuals could start viral wildfires in communities with a single infection. In addition, a large number of unvaccinated individuals might create more mutations to an already amplified virus. Unvaccinated individuals are an issue in both wealthy and poorer countries; However, the countries in places like Africa have a much bigger crisis on their hands.
Africa has millions of cases and almost no vaccines anywhere. The continent has less than 5% of all individuals vaccinated and already ran out of vaccines in wealthier parts of the continent. “COVAX,” a program to partially vaccinate poor countries’ populations, has not successfully distributed vaccines to the entire African continent. African vaccinations make up a minuscule amount of global vaccinations as a whole. Africa’s unvaccinated populations currently number in the billions and are already facing the wrath of covid-19. In the future, more strains could rapidly mutate in Africa from the delta variant, which could make the situation even worse. Impoverished areas of the world need vaccines if the covid-19 crisis will end and wealthy countries aren’t helping.
Even if wealthier countries had put all their effort into sharing vaccines, the resistance to vaccines has been immense. Mixed messaging in places like America has ensured complete confusion about the correct information about the covid-19 vaccine, which discouraged millions of people. Distrust in science has also taken root in some less urban communities due to political or social factors. In addition, lack of urgency or fear of the virus has made many young people forgo vaccines due to the perceived risk of covid-19 being low. Finally, many communities have multiple of these factors present, which heightens resistance to government vaccination efforts. As a result, many local and state governments have had to create monetary or material incentives for residents to make the final push for total community vaccination. Some examples of incentives include submissions into lottery drawings and free beers with a vaccine.
Young people play a prominent role in this crisis in places like the United States. Older populations have had access to vaccines and are almost entirely vaccinated in many areas. The issue is the extremely low percentage of younger individuals that make up a large part of the population. Younger individuals are also less likely to care about covid-19 which makes them potential spreaders among many communities. If younger individuals can get vaccinated, the risk of large outbreaks would be greatly reduced in places like the United States; however, a younger population that refuses to get vaccinated would create a perfect environment for the delta variant to create a new wave of cases in many countries. Medical resources will be stretched to the max in the coming months, so reducing the risk of outbreaks is critical.
Countries across the world could be facing a grim future if vaccinations don’t increase soon. Europe could be closed up again for the summer if lockdowns become necessary for EU members to prevent another calamity. Tourism economies in places like Europe have already suffered massively, so another wave of shutdowns would be devastating. Financial markets could be primed for a second crash when the positive financial outlooks are met with a covid-19 dominated future. Renters across the globe could be facing even more evictions in the wake of new rounds of layoffs.
2021 is looking more and more like a repeat of the events that occurred in 2020. Economic malaise, lockdowns, political strife, and absolute havoc on medical systems are taking root in many places. Vaccinating the populace is no longer a goal but a necessity to prevent the second year of chaos. Countries that fail to grab hold of the situation will experience a painful reminder of why 2020 was miserable.
Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html, https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/delta-variant-covid-19-contaigous-next-wave/, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/24/delta-plus-covid-variant-heres-what-you-need-to-know.html, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/what-is-delta-variant-coronavirus-with-k417n-mutation-2021-06-23/, https://www.newsweek.com/africa-facing-extremely-brutal-covid-wave-delta-variant-present-14-countries-1603861https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/06/delta-variant-triggers-dangerous-new-phase-pandemic