June 29, 2021: On Friday, the World Health Organization urged completely vaccinated people to keep wearing masks, social distance, and practice other Covid-19 pandemic safety measures as the delta variant is highly contagious and spreads rapidly around the globe.
“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, during a news briefing from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
The comments of health organizations come as some countries, which include the United States, have primarily done away with masks and pandemic-related restrictions. In addition, the Covid vaccines have helped drive down the number of new infections and deaths.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the number of new infections in the U.S. has held steady in the last week as at an average of 11,659 new cases per day. Still, new conditions have been plummeting over the last several months.
WHO officials said they ask completely vaccinated people to continue to “play it safe” because a large portion of the world remains vaccinated, and highly contagious variants, such as delta, are spreading in many countries, spurring outbreaks.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that about half of adults infected in an outbreak of the delta variant in Israel were completely vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, prompting the government to reimpose an indoor mask requirement and other measures.
“Yes, you can reduce some measures, and other countries have different recommendations in that regard. But there’s still the need for caution,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the WHO’s director-general, said at the briefing.
In the previous week, the WHO said that delta would become the dominant variant of the disease worldwide.
WHO officials have said the variant, found in India but now in at least 92 countries, is the fastest and fittest coronavirus strain. It will “pick off” the most vulnerable people in places with low Covid vaccination rates.
They said there were reports that the delta variant causes more severe symptoms, but that research is needed to confirm those conclusions. Still, there are signs the delta strain could provoke different symptoms than the different variants.
On Monday, it has the potential “to be more lethal because it’s more efficient in the way it transmits between humans and it will eventually find those vulnerable individuals who will become severely ill, have to be hospitalized and potentially die,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program.
In the U.S., President Joe Biden said Covid deaths nationwide would rise due to the spread of the “dangerous” delta variant, calling it a “serious concern.”
He is warning that Americans who are still not vaccinated are especially at risk.
“Six hundred thousand-plus Americans have died, and with this delta variant. You know it’s going to happen. So we’ve got to get young people vaccinated,” Biden said Thursday at a community center in Raleigh, North Carolina.