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CDC director Walensky urges Americans to get vaccinated, as Delta variant remains concerning for disease trackers

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine the FY 2022 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 19 in Washington.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine the FY 2022 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 19 in Washington.Jim Lo Scalzo/Associated Press

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 causing problems around the globe, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday urged Americans to get vaccinated, calling inoculation “our ticket OUT of this pandemic” via Twitter.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, sent out the tweet at 10:19 a.m. Wednesday.

“Vaccination is our ticket OUT of this pandemic,” Walensky wrote. “To anyone eligible, but not yet vaccinated, know that getting vaccinated is the key tool to stopping the spread of #COVID19.”

Walensky, former chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, also linked to an earlier tweet about the Delta variant from the CDC’s official account.

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The CDC had tweeted Tuesday that there’s “evidence that this variant spreads easily from person to person. Get vaccinated as soon as you can to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Delta, the CDC says on its website, is among the variants currently classified as a variant “of concern.” Such variants, the site says, show evidence of “an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”

Variants are mutations of the coronavirus. Scientists say viruses constantly mutate naturally as they replicate and circulate in their hosts. Sometimes these mutants disappear; other times they persist. The Delta variant, technically known as B.1.617.2, is gaining ground around the world after being first detected in India, where it is believed to have contributed to that country’s recent terrifying surge.

Delta has quickly spread into the United Kingdom, where it appears to be fueling an uptick in coronavirus cases despite the UK’s successful response to the pandemic earlier this year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic, said June 8 that the variant is “rapidly emerging as the dominant variant” in Great Britain, accounting for more than 60 percent of new cases.

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“It’s essentially taking over” there, Fauci said at a White House coronavirus response team briefing. “We cannot let that happen in the United States.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health last week reported that more than 150 cases of the worrisome Delta variant of the coronavirus have been found in Massachusetts.

National laboratories contracted by the CDC to conduct genomic surveillance have identified the cases, the DPH said. The findings were from samples collected here as early as March 13 and up until May 23, according to DPH.

The Delta variant may cause outbreaks in places where fewer people are vaccinated, experts and officials say. They say its arrival underscores the need for as many people as possible to get vaccinated.

In a related development on the vaccination front, Moderna said Wednesday in a statement that the federal government had purchased an additional 200 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The company said the latest purchase brings the US government’s order commitment to 500 million doses, including 110 million doses expected to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2021 and another 90 million slated for delivery in the first quarter of 2022.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.