At a COVID-19 media briefing on June 29, 2021, PAHO Director Dr Carissa Ettiene said laboratories sequenced the variant in the neighbouring islands of Barbados, Martinique, St Martin, Guadeloupe, Aruba and Puerto Rico.
It was also found in the popular travel destinations of the United States of America (USA) and Canada.
PAHO also reported detections in Mexico, French Guiana, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.
The Delta variant is said to be 1.2 times more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19, and scientists have detected it in 95 countries.
It has become the dominant strain in the United Kingdom, where vaccine accessibility is high.
However, Dr Ettiene said PAHO was confident that World Health Organisation-approved vaccines work and are already preventing countless hospitalisations and deaths.
“However, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, so there will be a few cases even among the vaccinated. And we do expect that. This is not a surprise, but still, the public health impact of vaccination is undeniable, and we are seeing it in places with high coverage as more people get vaccinated,” Ettiene said.
Dr Jairo Mendez Rico, PAHO’s advisor on emerging viral diseases, said the presence of the Delta variant in the region was linked to travellers mainly.
Rico said community transmission continues to be limited, whereas other variants are more widespread. “It is hard to predict what will be the impact of the Delta variant in our region. Variants such as Alpha, which has a high level of transmission, entered our region and they predominated just in a transient manner in some countries and were rapidly replaced by others such as Gama and Lamda, which is called the C.37,” Rico said.
However, he said countries’ public health measures should focus on decreasing transmission, regardless of the variant. These measures include the wearing of face masks, social distancing and vaccination.
Meanwhile, the Virgin Islands is awaiting samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago to see if the Delta variant is present in the territory.