The Department of Health (DOH) announced in a press briefing on July 16 that they have confirmed 11 local cases of the more transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.
Though the authorities still need to confirm the links between patients to say for certain that they are locally transmitted cases, these are the first Delta variant cases detected in patients who were not returning overseas Filipinos.
Two of the eleven Delta variant patients were from Metro Manila, and one of them died. Six others were from Northern Mindanao, two from Western Visayas, and another had an address listed in Central Luzon, but was tested in Metro Manila. Rhis brings the total number of Delta variant cases in the Philippines to 35.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is a strain of the Covid-19 coronavirus that was first discovered in India. It joins a list of Covid-19 variants that include the Alpha variant, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom; the Beta variant, first discovered in South Africa; and the Gamma variant, first discovered in Brazil.
Should we be worried about the Delta variant?
Health authorities are watching the Delta variant with great concern, as it is about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and which itself was more transmissible than the original virus.
The Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the UK, and in the US, it now accounts for 10% of Covid-19 cases, up from 6% last week.
Although epidemiologists have yet to conclusively say that the Delta variant causes more severe illness than the other strains, there is cause for concern that “patients are becoming sicker and their conditions worsening much more quickly,” reports the New York Times.
Do the current vaccines work against the Delta variant?
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who spoke at a White House briefing, two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech is about 88 percent effective against the Delta strain (in comparison, it is 93 percent effective against the Alpha variant). In an interview, Fauci said that the mRNA components of the Moderna vaccine would mean that it is similarly effective as Pfizer’s product.
Public Health UK reports that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalization after two doses.
In the same briefing, Fauci said that both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were only 33 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant, which emphasizes the importance of completing both doses of the vaccines.
There is no data yet on the efficacy of the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines against the new coronavirus variants. There was concern raised last week, as hundreds of health workers in Indonesia who were vaccinated with Sinovac were infected with Covid-19, many of them requiring hospitalization.
However, in a study from Uruguay—the first real-world data made public—Sinovac was found to prevent deaths by 95%, hospitalizations by 92%, and infection by 61%.
The Russian (RDIF) announced in a tweet that a study has found that its Sputnik V vaccine is “more effective against the Delta variant…than any other vaccine that published results on this strain so far”. RDIF also announced that they were releasing a booster shot, adjusted to work against the Delta variant, to other vaccine manufacturers.
This article was originally published on 21 June 2021, and was updated on 16 July 2021.