KEY POINTS

  • The Delta variant “more dangerous” than earlier coronavirus strains: Dr. Scott Gottlieb
  • It is found to be at least be "50% more contagious than the Alpha variant" 
  • The B.1.617.2 variant may quickly spread across the globe, warn experts

A former government health official has said that the Delta coronavirus variant “is unlikely” to pose a major threat to the United States until September. 

Appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said he believes the risk presented by the B.1.617.2 variant could be delayed as more Americans get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“The question is: Are there enough unvaccinated people that this could get into the population and start spreading more widely? I happen to think it’s unlikely that this is going to be a threat until the fall, perhaps,” Gottlieb said.

He also noted that the Delta variant appears to be more severe in people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine or those who are only partially vaccinated. However, he did acknowledge studies that suggest people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus be protected against the more contagious variant. 

“It does seem to be a more dangerous variant. That said, two doses of the vaccine seem to be very protective,” Gottlieb said, adding: “People who are fully vaccinated, I think, are pretty well protected against this new variant based on the accruing evidence.”  

The Delta variant had caused a devastating surge of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in India where it was first detected. Studies conducted by British scientists recently suggested that it may be 40% to 50% more contagious than the B.1.17 Alpha variant, first detected in the U.K.

The B.1.617.2 variant has now been detected in at least 60 countries. Health experts warn it may quickly spread across the globe. 

“Given that level of transmissibility, I would anticipate that it would actually spread around the world,” Sharon peacock, executive director and chair of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, said during a speech at the Tech Health Event on Wednesday.

In the United Kingdom, the Delta variant now accounts for approximately 75% of all COVID-19 cases, prompting rumors that the government may decide to delay lifting its lockdown measures on June 21.  

In the U.S., the Delta variant accounts for more than 6% of all sequenced cases. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House infectious disease expert, said the numbers could be higher

Vaccines are helping countries emerge from the pandemic Vaccines are helping countries emerge from the pandemic Photo: AFP / CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN