COVID-19: What experts say about the risk of infection from the Delta variant among an unvaccinated population

The Delta Variant has proven to be the most dangerous strain of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It is more contagious and has stronger resistance to the available vaccines.

Some people who are fully vaccinated have been hospitalised after being infected by the Delta variant. This brings up a recent remark Dr Gregory Poland, a leading expert on vaccines with the Mayo Clinic in the United States, made about the variant and people who are unvaccinated.

“This virus will find everybody who is not immune,” he said. He added a warning to people, especially the proponents of the ongoing anti-vaccination campaigns in the US, that “don’t be deceived that ‘I got this far and I am OK.’ This is a very different variant. It will find you.”

The Minnesota Department of Health for instance had said whilst unvaccinated people constitute 99% of new cases, 75% of the new cases are Delta Variant as of July this year. “We are seeing the Delta Variant really take over. It’s a serious warning for us in Minnesota,” he stated.

The impact of the Delta variant and has brought up concerns about the imminent danger persons who are not vaccinated are likely to face.

Are all unvaccinated people prone to getting the virus?

It is now common knowledge that viruses can still spread among people irrespective of whether jabs have been administered or not. However, according to the Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), Prof. Abraham Kwabena Anang, even though viruses may still spread within a vaccinated population, the rate of morbidity, mortality and hospitalisations are not as severe as amongst unvaccinated people. The transmissibility rate is also moderate, especially at places where protocols are adhered to.

How safe are Ghanaians with the observation of protocols being disregarded, and inoculation of vaccines not advanced as expected?

According to graphics.reuters.com, Ghana has administered at least 1,271,393 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 2.1% of the country’s population as of August 16, 2021, Reuters say.

The statistics above suggest that Ghana risks having a considerable number of its entire population getting infected with the virus if protocols are not strictly observed.

Meanwhile, Dr Augustina Sylverken of the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) has told Fact-Check Ghana that, even though Dr Poland’s assertion is not backed by any empirical research to substantiate it, the nature of the Delta variant with regards to transmissibility must not be joked with.

“It is likely but you need to conduct studies to generate empirical data to enable you know whether it’s true or not. We know that when you’re exposed to a foreign organism, your body is able to produce certain substances to fight that organism,” she said.

Dr Augustina Angelina Sylverken of KCCR has cautioned people to mask up and observe the protocols

She added that some unvaccinated people may have built immunity from the variant after having been infected already.

“it is possible that there may be some people walking around who may have already been exposed to the Delta and other variants. They may have built some level of immunity but you can’t look at someone’s face and say that you’ve built immunity and you haven’t. The only way you can do it is to take blood samples from people and look at their levels of exposure. In some people, you may have a certain quantity of antibodies and in others, you may have very low antibodies because we all have different immune systems. For instance, it’s easier for thieves to break into a house with no windows and security than the one with.”

Despite lack of empirical evidence to substantiate Dr Poland’s claim the Delta variant will infect all unvaccinated people, KCCR’s Dr Sylverken is cautioning the public to mask up and observe the protocols, considering how brutal the strain has proven in terms of transmissibility, whilst Ghana expects to inoculate majority of its population in the coming weeks.

This report is produced under the project: COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable Information being implemented with funding support from the European Union.

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