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Episodes Stopping the spiral of the COVID-19 delta variant

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Stopping the spiral of the COVID-19 delta variant
July 28, 2021

Transmission of the COVID-19 delta variant is increasing.

"We're in this constant spiral, right now,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

“The delta variant is so highly contagious,” he says. “The number of delta viral particles in the upper respiratory system is reportedly 1,000 times higher than with the original COVID-19 virus. If we can't find ways to get people vaccinated, we are going to be in a world of hurt. And I don't say that to be alarmist. I say it to be a realist, based on what’s happening right in front of us.”

But Dr. Poland says the spiral can be stopped by getting higher rates of immunization. 

"Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the development of worse and worse variants. It will prevent severe cases of hospitalization and death, even in the face of a variant,” he says. "The alternative is to lose another 600,000-plus Americans. Only this time it will, unfortunately, involve younger people."

Dr. Poland explains further, "Every time somebody gets infected with the delta variant, there's the opportunity for that virus to mutate and transmit to other people," says Dr. Poland. "This means that immunization rates to control herd immunity will probably have to be in the 85% to 95% range."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland continues to talk about the delta variant, breakthrough infections, booster shots and much more.