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Delta variant dominant strain in Iowa, experts say vaccines are the answer

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - As the rate of vaccinations in Iowa keeps slowing, the more transmissible Delta variant is taking hold. Experts say since over half of our eligible population is vaccinated, the strain can't run too rampant. But they say it is time to renew our push for vaccinations.

"I do think we're going to see an increase in cases. And primarily, that's going to be in areas where vaccination rates are lower," Dr. Dan Diekema said, an epidemiologist at University of Iowa Health Care.

Diekema says we're unlikely to see daily new case counts anywhere near the levels before vaccines were readily available, but there is a risk for the variant to grow in some areas.

The Iowa State Hygienic lab randomly selects positive test results to "sequence" every week; sequencing is the process of analyzing a sample to see if it's a variant of concern.

Last week 47 samples were sequenced and 25 of them were the Delta or B.1.617.2 first identified in India. That equates to 53%. The next highest total was the Alpha variant at 21%.

"In order to really get to what one would call 'herd immunity' for a virus as transmissible as Delta...really requires vaccination rates of 80 to 90% or more," Diekema said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health first identified the Delta variant in Iowa on May 4. The CDC calls it a "variant of concern" because it is more transmissible that the original SARS-CoV-2 strain identified in Wuhan, China in 2019.

The CDC says all the approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) offer a degree of protection from the known variants of concern. While they are not 100% effective in preventing transmission, they should shield a person from hospitalization or death.

Diekema says because of this, his main prerogative is still telling people to get vaccinated.

Last week, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met to discuss rare heart inflammation, called Myocarditis and Pericarditis, reported after a second dose of one of the approved mRNA vaccines. As of June 28, the CDC and FDA have confirmed 518 cases of the two conditions.

The ACIP decided there is evidence that this is being caused by vaccination, but the cases of heart inflammation make up just .000334% of fully vaccinated people.

"The risk from COVID-19 --which also can cause severe heart inflammation among many other complications-- is much greater than the risk of the vaccine," Diekema said.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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