More than 350 healthcare workers in Indonesia have been infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19, and dozens of these workers have been hospitalized. Most of the workers had been vaccinated with the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac.
According to CNN, the district of Kudus in central Java has about 5,000 healthcare workers. And the current outbreak of COVID-19 raised hospital bed occupancy in the area by 90%. Experts say the occurrence raises concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines against the more aggressive and highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus that originated in India.
“The data shows they have the Delta variant,” said Dicky Budman, an epidemiologist from the Griffith University of Australia, talking about the Kudus outbreak. “So, it is no surprise that the breakthrough infection is higher than before, because, as we know, the majority of healthcare workers in Indonesia got Sinovac, and we still don’t know how effective it is in the real world against the Delta variant.”
Sinovac was found to prevent symptomatic disease in 51% of people in clinical trials and reduced the incidence of severe disease and hospitalization, says CNN. The World Health Organization (WHO) approved Sinovac for emergency use this month.
So far, at least five doctors and one nurse died from COVID-19 despite being vaccinated and healthcare officials are asking the public to take precautionary measures. The WHO urged Indonesia to intensify lockdown measures amidst the surge of COVID-19 cases, which are nearing 10,000 daily, the highest since late February.
In the U.S., the Delta variant is also gaining ground. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said that 10% of current COVID-19 cases could be attributed to the virus formerly known as the B.1.617.2 strain, but the percentages of cases are doubling every two weeks.
According to reports, Gottlieb, who served as the FDA chief from 2017 to 2019, said that Delta could become the dominant strain in the U.S. and could affect vulnerable regions in the country by fall.
“I think in parts of the country where you have less vaccination ― particularly in parts of the South, where vaccination rates are low — there’s a risk that you could see outbreaks with this new variant,” said Gottlieb. He told CNBC that “people who are fully vaccinated, I think, are pretty well protected against this new variant based on accruing evidence.”
A recent study underscored the need to get both doses of COVID-19 vaccines to protect against the Delta variant first identified in India. The same rule applies to neutralizing the Alpha, or British, variant, said researchers.
According to CNBC, both doses of the two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca were required to effectively protect against the variants. Dr. Jenny Harries, the chief of the U.K. Security Agency, told the BBC that the study provided the “first real-world evidence of vaccine effectiveness” in neutralizing the variants that are rapidly spreading.
The study conducted by Public Health England between April and May 2021 found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant. The same vaccine was 93% effective against the Alpha variant according to CNBC.
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