Health

New CDC Data Indicates Vaccinated Can Spread Delta Variant, But Are Still Highly Protected From Illness

(Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Newly available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that vaccinated individuals are still capable of spreading the delta variant of COVID-19.

Available COVID-19 vaccines still provide high levels of protection against serious illness or death, according to an internal CDC document first obtained by The Washington Post. However, breakthrough cases among the vaccinated population are likely more common than previously believed.

The CDC document says the delta variant, while not significantly more deadly than prior strains of COVID-19, is up to five times more contagious, roughly equivalent to the contagiousness of chickenpox. The agency’s findings also show that the delta variant sheds for longer than the alpha variant, and those infected with delta typically carry a higher viral load.

Pfizer’s vaccine loses some effectiveness in stopping infection or symptoms against the delta variant, but is still more than 90% effective at stopping hospitalization or death, according to CDC data cited from Canada, England, Scotland and Israel. (RELATED: Biden Administration Indicates They Are Open To More Lockdowns If Scientists Recommend Them)

It’s believed that the new data was the driving factor behind the agency’s shift in guidance earlier this week. More than two months after telling Americans they can go about their lives unmasked if they are vaccinated, the CDC is once again recommending that everyone, including vaccinated Americans, wear masks in certain indoor settings.

The CDC acknowledged in the document that Americans may have lost trust in the agency due to prior communication failures. The document says the agency must “acknowledge the war has changed” while also stressing that vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness or death ten-fold and reduces the risk of infection three-fold.

New data is expected to be publicly released by the CDC Friday outlining the Biden administration’s decision to once again recommend masking in public. (RELATED: Mitch McConnell Warns Lockdowns Are Coming If More People Don’t Get Vaccinated)

Much of the information in the CDC internal presentation confirms what was already widely known about the virus. Vaccinations don’t guarantee protection against infection, but they do drastically reduce the risk of serious sickness or death. Vaccinated individuals are 25 times less likely to end up hospitalized or dead if they contract the Delta variant compared to the unvaccinated.

Currently available vaccine regimens also provide relatively less protection for groups that were already high-risk, including the elderly and the immunocompromised. There has been some discussion within the agency about potentially approving a third booster shot for vulnerable populations, which Pfizer has been lobbying for in recent months.

Nationwide COVID-19 cases have surged back above 60,000 per day, according to the CDC’s seven-day moving average, the highest total since mid-April. Deaths have not surged nearly as much though, remaining below 300 per day since mid-June.