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Dr. Peter Hotez warned that Southern U.S. states could feel the impact of the highly transmissible Delta Covid variant as early as this summer, due in part to low vaccination rates. 

“I’m really holding my breath about the South and what happens over the summer,” said Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Here in the South, particularly in Louisiana, Mississippi, we’re seeing really low vaccination rates. And less than 10% of adolescents are vaccinated in many of these southern states, so we have a real vulnerability here,” Hotez said.

A new study in the U.K. found Pfizer’s vaccine is 88% effective against the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India.

Vaccination rates vary across the U.S.: More than 50% of the population in many Northeastern states is now fully vaccinated, compared with just around 30% of the population in many Southeastern states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Tuesday, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, stressed the importance of vaccines to protect against the Delta variant, which he said accounts for more than 6% of the U.S. coronavirus infections that scientists have genetically sequenced.

Hotez also told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that he’s still recommending Covid vaccinations to adolescents, despite CDC warnings over a higher-than-expected number of cases of heart inflammation in 16- to 24-year-olds.

“I’m pretty convinced that the possibility of severe Covid-19 from this new Delta variant is a far bigger concern, so I’m strongly recommending for adolescents to get their two doses of the vaccine,” Hotez said.

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