Health care workers transport a patient from an ambulance to Maimonides Medical Center, a hospital in New York, on January 4, 2021 ( AFP / Angela Weiss)

Vaccinated people do not face greatest risk from coronavirus Delta variant

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

A Facebook video cites Harvard research to claim that people vaccinated against Covid-19 are at greatest risk from the coronavirus Delta variant that causes the disease. However, a Harvard professor confirmed that the video misrepresents his analysis, and health authorities and studies suggest the best protection from the virus is through vaccination.

"Delta Variant Targets Vaxxers," says text accompanying a July 18, 2021 Facebook video featuring Jen DePice, a chiropractor and exercise physiologist who goes by "Dr Jen" on social media.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken July 21, 2021

The highly infectious Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has contributed to a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases in the United States.

Delta is one of four notable variants circulating in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website.

In her video, DePice discusses the Delta variant, citing research "from Harvard" as evidence to support her claims, and the post links to a Q&A with William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology and a faculty member in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

However, Hanage says that his remarks do not support DePice's claims in the video.

"Not only are all the claims false, but I did not make them," he told AFP on July 20.

DePice says "that the people at greatest risk for the Delta variant are the people that are vaccinated, not the people that are unvaccinated that have already had natural exposure," attributing this theory to the Harvard analysis, despite the fact that Hanage makes no mention in the Q&A of people who may have a natural immunity to the Covid-19 virus.

Hanage told AFP on July 22, 2021 that "there is pretty good evidence that the quality of immunity following infection is more variable than following immunization with vaccines available in the US."

"So some people who have prior immunity through infection may be well protected, but others won't be," he said. He added that immunity can wane over time, and pointed to research that found: "If you have recovered from infection and get an mRNA vaccine regardless,... you can expect really quite amazing protection against variants."

The CDC recommends getting the Covid-19 vaccine "regardless of whether you already had Covid-19."

It says: "Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from Covid-19."

Hanage addressed another of DePice's claims in which she states: "We are not seeing increasing numbers of people hospitalized or deaths around the world even with an increase of Delta variants."

"This is not true. Hospitalizations and deaths are increasing wherever Delta has emerged," Hanage said.

Vaccination is key to preventing severe illness and hospitalization.

US surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, told CNN's "State of the Union" on July 18: "We are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated in particular. And while if you are vaccinated you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not true if you are not vaccinated."

Additional studies suggest that those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 retain protection against the Delta variant.

This is indicated in a peer-reviewed article in the scientific journal Nature. A similar conclusion was reached by medical researchers, whose letter on the topic was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Top US infectious disease specialist Dr Anthony Fauci said at a July 16 briefing that vaccines work against Delta.

"The message loud and clear that we need to reiterate is that these vaccines continue to (offer) strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant," meaning "it's so important for yourself, your family, and your community to get vaccinated," said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

AFP Fact Check has debunked numerous other inaccurate claims related to Covid-19 and vaccines.