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'This is going to accelerate very rapidly' | Houston doctor urges vaccinations as Delta variant surges nationwide

In a new memo, CDC says the Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox.

HOUSTON — New data out from the CDC is raising new alarm bells as the Delta variant continues to fuel a COVID-19 resurgence across the country including in Houston.

The CDC says about 35,000 people a week are contracting COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Experts say the vaccine remains the best and only tool to get this under control.

"We blew it," said Dr. Peter Hotez. "We lost an incredible opportunity."

Dr. Hotez is known for picking every word carefully when it comes to the pandemic. He's not holding back now.

"Had we fully vaccinated the American people as we went into May and June, we would not be having this discussion," Dr. Hotez said.

Only 49.5 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. That number is only slightly better in Texas. Far too many people remain unvaccinated, and the Delta variant is taking advantage.

"This is going to accelerate very rapidly," Dr. Hotez said. "It's like setting out a forest fire in an area of longtime drought. That's what is happening in the South."

Now a new CDC report is issuing new warnings about how easily Delta spreads. The study found 469 people in Provincetown, Mass. caught the virus during a recent outbreak. 74 percent of them were fully vaccinated.

"That only tells half the story," Dr. Hotez said.

Dr. Hotez said importantly no deaths were reported in that outbreak, but the Delta variant is proving to be a growing problem.

"There is some level of immune escape," Dr. Hotez said. "Vaccines are not working as well because of Delta, but they're still working pretty well."

The CDC says Delta spreads as easily as chickenpox. People with original COVID-19 strains could spread it on average to up to three people. One person with Delta can now spread it to up to nine others.

"It is not too late, but it is urgent," said Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee. 

It's why Houston-area vaccination events this weekend are more important than ever. Experts say vaccines remain the best tool to keep things from getting any worse.

"This is the time to do it before the school year starts," Dr. Hotez said.

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