Fact check: Viral meme makes false claim about delta variant
The claim: The delta variant is fake
As the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads, outpacing global vaccination efforts, misinformation surrounding the highly transmissible strain has surfaced on social media.
Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine activists falsely claimed a spike protein of COVID-19 vaccines caused the delta variant, and they alleged that it's part of a plan to force vaccinations on younger age groups.
One post claimed the delta variant doesn’t even exist.
A Facebook post on July 5 with more than 11,000 reactions includes an altered image of President Donald Trump posing with an executive order that says, “The Delta Variant Is Fake News.”
Fan page Trump Talking captioned the image: “Have you seen the latest fake news? What do you think of it?”
The term "fake news" has adopted an array of meanings online, but some commenters read it in this case to be an assertion the delta variant itself is fake. Users in the comments responded, “They are just fueling the fire for the Democrats” and claimed the variant was created “to keep everyone living in fear.”
The delta variant is a very real threat that is dominant in some areas around the world, and health officials agree it is the most transmissible variant of the coronavirus to date.
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USA TODAY was unable to reach the person who runs the Facebook page for comment.
Delta variant is real
Delta, also known as B.1.617.2, is one of the variants of the coronavirus, which are the result of changes to the virus's genes. When a virus replicates, mutations can occur in its genetic material.
The head of the World Health Organization called the delta variant “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far.” Since it was first detected in India in December 2020, the delta variant has been reported in at least 98 countries.
“There are more than two-dozen countries that have epidemic curves that are almost vertical right now,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead at the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said while discussing the delta variant at a briefing July 7.
In the USA, more than 51.7% of new coronavirus cases were linked to the delta variant over the two weeks ending July 3, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Covid ActNow's U.S. COVID-19 Risk and Vaccine Tracker said 12 states are at high risk from the virus because of low vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant.
“The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a news conference in June.
Studies have found that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are effective against the delta variant; however, some countries, including in Africa and Europe, are experiencing a slow rollout of vaccines, resulting in a surge of infections.
Research suggests the delta variant is the most transmissible of all known coronavirus variants globally, and scientists said it spreads about 225% faster than the original version of the virus.
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Health experts said the delta variant infections come with the same symptoms as the original Sars-CoV-2 virus, but they are more severe. Patients are more likely to require hospitalization and oxygen treatments.
Our rating: False
The claim that the delta variant is fake is FALSE, based on our research. Data from the CDC shows the delta variant makes up a majority of new COVID-19 cases in the USA, and the variant has been detected in at least 98 countries. Health officials and experts have acknowledged the presence of the delta variant and warned about its rapid spread.
Our fact-check sources:
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 28, About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19
- Associated Press, June 25, WHO: Delta variant is 'most transmissible' identified so far
- The Guardian, July 3, Vaccines 'outpaced by variants', WHO warns, as Delta now in 98 countries
- USA TODAY, June 11, Delta variant makes up 10% of new COVID cases in the US. Should Americans be worried?
- Global Health Strategies, July 7, tweet
- Reuters, July 7, Delta variant already dominant in U.S., CDC estimates show
- Covid ActNow, accessed July 8, U.S. COVID Risk & Vaccine Tracker
- Business Insider, July 5, A map shows the 12 states most at risk from COVID-19, all with high levels of Delta and below-average vaccination rates
- CNBC, June 22, Fauci declares delta variant 'greatest threat' to the nation's efforts to eliminate Covid
- Public Health England, May 22, Vaccines highly effective against B.1.617.2 variant after 2 doses
- World Health Organization, July 8, Africa's COVID-19 surge tops second wave peak as vaccine deliveries pick up
- Bloomberg News, July 8, Europe's vaccinations slow as delta variant flares
- Virological.org, accessed July 9, Viral infection and transmission in a large well-traced outbreak caused by the Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant
- Kaiser Family Foundation, July 9, Full Two-Dose Vaccine Regimen Offers Best Protection Against Delta Variant: Study
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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.