Delta variant 'definitely spreads more easily and likely causes more severe disease than the other variants': Doctor

Dr. Brian Garibaldi, Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit medical director, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down his thoughts on the delta variant of COVID-19 and how the variant will impact reopening.

Video transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's bring in Dr. Brian Garibaldi. He is Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit Medical Director. It's good to have you here, doctor. And when we have this discussion about vaccinations and the variants, especially the Delta variant, I think a lot of us, the concern we have is for kids 12 and younger. Do we know how the Delta variant affects them? Because they can't get vaccinated yet.

BRIAN GARIBALDI: Well, that's a great question. I mean, we know that this variant definitely spreads more easily and likely causes more severe disease than the other variants that are available or that are currently circulating. And what we have seen is we've seen an increase in cases among unvaccinated people, which includes children. So over the last several months, we've seen an uptick in the number of children who have been infected and the number of children who have required hospitalization and, in some cases, developed severe disease.

So I think that's something that we're worried about. And it's another reason that we really need to step up our game in terms of getting people vaccinated. You know, we're probably not going to make President Biden's goal of getting 70% of the country vaccinated by July 4th. But that doesn't mean we still can't continue to make progress until the school year to try to make sure that we decrease community transmission as much as possible.

JULIA LA ROCHE: And doctor, from your perspective, what do you think can kind of help you-- I don't mean to make a pun here, but help move the needle as it relates to getting more [INAUDIBLE] vaccinated? What do you think are the biggest challenges out there?

BRIAN GARIBALDI: Well, I think one of the biggest challenges is the misinformation that's circulating about the potential side effects of the vaccine and the lack of a clear message about its benefit, both for individuals, but also for communities. And I think we're starting to see some progress on that front in terms of meeting people where they are and trying to understand what their concerns are and really trying to battle that misinformation with valued members of local communities.

But I still think we have a ways to go. And we've seen some progress with incentives like vaccine lotteries, for example, where people have been getting financial incentives to get the vaccine. Those have led to some uptick in vaccination rates in the areas that have implemented them. But we've seen that initial benefit from those incentives start to tick back down. So we're going to have to come up with continued creative ways of getting people to recognize that this is for their own health, but also for the health of their friends and family and their communities.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Doctor, we've all encountered that person who just won't listen to reason. So what can those of us who are vaccinated adults, who return to the office, who might encounter people who are not vaccinated, who might be able to transmit a variant of COVID-19, what can we do-- what should we do to protect kids? Do we need to worry if we're vaccinated and encountering people who are not who might be contagious?

BRIAN GARIBALDI: So we know that the vaccines are very effective at preventing symptomatic illness. And that probably means that the vaccines and that those of us who are vaccinated are probably less likely to be able to transmit COVID-19. And luckily, so far, the data we've seen in terms of the mRNA vaccines and the Delta variant are holding that high level of protection in the real world. And so, I expect that even if you're exposed to someone who's had-- who has symptomatic COVID-19 and they're not vaccinated, if you've been vaccinated, your chance of becoming symptomatic is quite low. And then your chance of transmitting it on to someone else is also low.

JULIA LA ROCHE: And I imagine you're probably having a lot of these conversations in your own area of work. What do you say to someone who might be hesitant about getting a vaccine? How do you kind of help them get over that and get the shot in the arm?

BRIAN GARIBALDI: Well, I think the first thing is trying to understand what their hesitancy is, right? People have very real concerns, legitimate concerns, about safety based on their own medical conditions, based on the people that they're around. And we also have to recognize that there are many people who are hesitant to get vaccinated because of historical reasons, the inequities in our healthcare system, particularly amongst underrepresented minorities.

So I think the first step is to just try to engage people in an honest conversation about, hey, you know, I'm curious why have you not yet gotten vaccinated. And I think the conversation starts there and where it branches off really depends on what their response is and what their concerns are.

ADAM SHAPIRO: We appreciate your comments. Dr. Brian Garibaldi is John Hopkins Biocontainment Unit Medical Director.