Many states with high vaccination rates are reporting sharp surges in COVID-19 cases. The delta variant makes up around half of all active cases. Despite this, many so-called public health experts are still encouraging people to get vaccinated to curb transmission.
Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, believes one possible way the delta variant is spreading is being overlooked: with the help of vaccinated individuals.
The current policy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that vaccinated people not be tested for COVID-19 unless they are symptomatic. To Murray, this indicates that the CDC’s data does not show the true extent of the delta variant’s spread.
“We actually have states where hospitalizations are going up more than cases,” said Murray, noting that state-level coronavirus data shows that the delta variant has spread rapidly across the country.
“We have 14 states where transmission has started to go back up” due to the delta variant, said Murray. Additional data shows that 16 other states are seeing a rise in their number of COVID-19 infections.
Murray noted that the same situation can be seen in Scotland. More than 71 percent of people in Scotland have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and more than half are fully vaccinated. The country is still suffering its worst wave of COVID-19 infections.
“You cannot explain the explosive epidemic in Scotland, in a highly vaccinated population, if they’re not playing a role in transmission,” said Murray.
He added that studies were underway investigating COVID-19 outbreaks among groups that are “90 percent-plus vaccinated.”
“That could only be occurring if they’re transmitting amongst each other,” he said. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Public health experts blaming low vaccination rates delta variant’s spread
To Murray, transmission among the vaccinated population explains why states with high vaccination rates like Washington, New York, Illinois and California are seeing a surge in coronavirus cases.
According to CDC data, the prevalence of the delta variant in the U.S. has doubled since late June and early July, when it made up 26 percent of new cases. Now it makes up nearly 52 percent of all recent infections.
The delta variant has been detected in all 50 states. Along with the four aforementioned states, the variant is also spiking in states like Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Connecticut and Arkansas. Health experts claim without evidence that the low vaccination rate of some of these states is responsible for the recent surge in cases.
“We’re already starting to see places with low vaccination rates starting to have relatively big spikes from the delta variant,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
But Connecticut is the fourth most vaccinated state in the country, with 73.3 percent of its adult residents fully vaccinated. Both Iowa and Kansas also have more than 50 percent of their adult residents fully vaccinated. Missouri and Arkansas have fully vaccinated adult populations of over 40 percent.
Similar situations can be found in other settings with high vaccination rates. Los Angeles County and New York City are experiencing surges in coronavirus cases. Over 60 percent of residents aged 16 and up in Los Angeles County are fully vaccinated. Nearly 67 percent of all adults in New York are fully vaccinated as well.