GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Cases of the delta variant have increased rapidly in Mesa County and officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are concerned after seeing less effectiveness from the vaccine in the county compared to all other counties in the state.
These findings comes from a CDC study of the virus in Mesa County from April 27 to June 6. The study, released Friday, also revealed higher ICU admissions and case fatality ratios in Mesa County compared with those in the rest of the state.
The study found the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against preventing symptomatic infection was an estimated 78% in Mesa County, compared to 89% for other Colorado counties.
The analysis also showed hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Mesa County are being admitted to the intensive care unit at a higher rate than the rest of the state. From April 27 to June 6, 34.5% of hospitalized patients in Mesa County were admitted to the ICU, compared to 23% in other Colorado counties.
Of those admitted to the hospital in the county, 7% were fully vaccinated, compared to 4.8% in other Colorado counties.
While CDC officials did not identify a possible reason as to why the vaccine appears to be less effective in the Western Slope region, Mesa County does have one of the lowest vaccination coverage in the state.
In early May, the CDC reported only 36% of eligible residents of Mesa County were fully vaccinated, compared to a 44% vaccination coverage in the rest of the state during that same time period.
As vaccine demand in the county started to drop, the delta variant began to emerge.
State health officials first identified the more contagious delta variant in Mesa County on May 5. The first five cases in the county were linked with school settings, the CDC study reads.
Since first being identified, Mesa County saw a marked increase in the proportion of delta variant cases, more than doubling since the beginning of May. As of June 6, more than one half of sequenced delta variant specimens in Colorado were from Mesa County.
Studies indicate the Delta variant causes more severe disease, with roughly double the hospitalization rate of the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) which was first identified in the United Kingdom, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Health experts stressed that getting vaccinated provides the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.