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Alaska’s Dr. Zink shares concerns about Delta variant, talks vaccine effectiveness

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:20 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 may be cause for concern for those not vaccinated.

On Friday, June 25th, the World Health Organizations released a statement urging those vaccinated to continue wearing masks to stop the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and as of now, the CDC has yet to release a statement on the matter.

However, according to Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska, the WHO’s recommendations may not apply to the nations with higher vaccination rates. Dr. Zink elaborated, “I think it’s important to understand that different organizations have different missions and purpose. So the World Health Organization, their job is really looking at the world’s health, and unfortunately we have some countries that are still really struggling to get anyone vaccinated or at maybe 2, 5 percent people vaccinated. We have other countries that have much more access to vaccines. And even in our countries we have different states. Some states are at over 70% of eligible adults are vaccinated, our state 54% of people who are eligible are vaccinated. And so that makes a big difference when we think of the risk associated with COVID-19, Delta variant or not. And it is for those reasons that I don’t think the CDC has made a statement as of yet. Like the WHO, they are really the health organization for the United States which has been very blessed by having access to such highly efficacious and safe vaccines across the country.”

While the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been shown to spread more easily and has the possibility of being more aggressive on the body, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be effective against the variant.

“The Delta variant does look like it moves more easily from person to person, and does look like it can make you quite sick for some people, potentially more sick than the wild type variant. We are continuing to learn how the vaccines work against different variants. There are some good studies coming out about the mRNA vaccines, the Moderna and Pfizer, showing that it is about 88% efficacious against the Delta variant. That is down from 94-95% against the wild types. So not quite as good, but still 88% is a really good number for when we’re thinking of the efficacy of a vaccine,” commented Dr. Zink.

However, the effectiveness of those vaccines drops dramatically unless both shots are received according to Dr. Zink. Dr. Zink explained, ”From an individual perspective, we see good protection from the mRNA vaccine, particularly people who have gotten two doses. There was a study that came out of the United Kingdom that showed that one dose was down into the 30% efficacious against the Delta variant. So it’s really important that people get both doses of the mRNA vaccine if that’s the one they got. If they got Johnson & Johnson, we’ll continue to look at that data and provide any additional recommendations once we have more information regarding that.”

But the real concern around the Delta variant is for those unvaccinated.

“From a population health perspective, it is quite concerning to see a virus that spreads more easily, more quickly, and can make more people sick. Particularly when you have people in our state who either cannot get vaccinated, either because of their age they’re less than 12, they’re immunocompromised, or maybe they’ve had an allergic reaction in the past or some reason, or they’ve chosen not to. And so for all of those reasons, we know that there are many people in Alaska still susceptible and just tryin to continue to move at the speed of trust and get vaccines out,” said Dr. Zink.

For more information on both COVID-19 and vaccine availability, visit the Department of Health and Social Services’ website.

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