TEMPE, AZ — Researchers are learning more about the delta variant as Arizona sees a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Joshua LaBaer, Executive Director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, said Tuesday there's new research on why even vaccinated people can get and spread the virus.
"It does respond to the vaccine, it's just that it gets there so quick, that a body doesn't have a chance to respond quickly and so it kind of overwhelms the immune system before the person's body has a chance to respond," he said.
Dr. LaBaer explained -- even people who already got COVID or are vaccinated show high copies of the virus, meaning there is a lot of virus in the body and it takes the system a bit to fight back.
The delta variant takes only three-four days to get there instead of four-five days with other variants. During that time, the virus can spread.
“We are seeing people who have been vaccinated who get infected still make very large copy numbers of the virus," he said. "People who have been vaccinated initially have very high copy numbers of this virus, but after several days, it drops really fast and goes away. Whereas when you look at unvaccinated people, it's very high initially and it stays high for many days."
That's why Dr. LaBaer calls it a pandemic of the unvaccinated and part of the reason we're seeing a huge rise in cases in kids.
"I'm sure it's a combination of the delta variant and the fact that kids are going back to school and many of them are not wearing masks at this point, and the fact that there's no vaccine available to them," he said.
He said in Arizona, about a quarter of COVID cases are people younger than 18, and the most rapid rise in cases are among children five to 15 years old.
"We're seeing the fastest rise in rates in kids that we have seen through this entire pandemic," he said.
Dr. LaBaer emphasized the efficacy of vaccines, saying you're 10 times less likely to get infected if you're vaccinated. And if you do get the virus and are vaccinated,
"If you are not vaccinated, the likelihood that you will get COVID-19 is extremely high. And if you do get COVID-19, you will very likely have received a disease more likely than any other in your life to put you in the hospital in to kill you," said Dr. LaBaer.
ASU has seen an increase in demand for its saliva testing. Dr. LaBaer said they are looking at increasing collection sites in underserved communities