Missouri health officials urge residents to get COVID-19 vaccine as Delta variant rises

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Missouri health officials are urging residents to become vaccinated against COVID-19 as the state is seeing a rise in the number of people contracting the emerging Delta variant that has raised concern among national health experts.

The Delta variant, first reported in India, is considered highly contagious and is projected to become the dominant strain of the virus worldwide. It also has the potential to cause more serious illness and hospitalizations among those who have yet to be fully vaccinated, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says.

“Our greatest concern in Missouri is areas with lower vaccine uptake,” Robert Knodell, the state agency’s acting director, said in a statement Wednesday. “With this variant being easier to spread and possibly causing more severe illnesses among unvaccinated people of all ages, vaccinations are the best way to stop this virus in its tracks.”

The department began testing wastewater in February to see how common the variants were in Missouri. In its warning, the health department said its tests show the Delta variant “has become prevalent in communities throughout Missouri.”

So far, an estimated 43% of Missourians have at least started vaccination, according to the state’s health department. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified the Delta variant as a “variant of concern.”

The Delta variant is among five variants of concern circulating in the United States. It has been found in more than 70 different countries.

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