The Delta Variant Raises New Concerns for Manufacturers
Just when it looked like the pandemic was winding down, a new variant raises renewed concerns about public health. The Delta variant is highly contagious, comes with the familiar serious health implications, and can infect those fully vaccinated against the original strain of COVID-19. While vaccination does appear to mitigate the severity of the illness, the CDC is once again urging the use of masks and reinforcing social distancing standards. And manufacturers are bracing for another wave of pandemic-driven problems.
The Delta variant is highly infectious
There’s no denying the highly-infectious nature of the Delta variant. In fact, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced that the Delta variant accounts for around 83% of new coronavirus cases in the United States. While two-dose vaccines seem to be effective in fighting the Delta variant, only 60% of adults living in the United States are fully vaccinated, and the effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine remains unclear.
New cases and hospitalizations are rising at an alarming rate, and most are due to the Delta variant. Since vaccinations seem to be effective against the Delta variant, cases are primarily climbing in areas with low vaccination rates.
CDC guidelines ramp back up
Just two months ago, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people would no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing. Now, the CDC recommends all people in certain areas of the country, even the fully vaccinated, resume wearing masks while indoors. Manufacturing companies are by now experienced with mask and social distancing policies, but another shutdown could be disastrous for productivity.
The Delta variant’s infectious nature also means manufacturers must reinstate, follow, and enforce appropriate guidelines to protect their workers. This could potentially cause excessive strain on companies when they’re still reeling from worker shortages, high materials costs, and slow supply chains caused by the previous shutdown.
Manufacturing can’t afford another shutdown
The manufacturing sector took a major hit in 2020, mostly due to shutdowns and scaling down workplaces to implement COVID-19 safety measures. The pandemic also caused higher materials costs and delayed supply chains across the board, leading to large profit losses for many manufacturing companies. Another nationwide shutdown would be catastrophic for the industry, especially since demand continues to rise. Manufacturers are still struggling to fulfill orders and source expensive materials. Weathering another shutdown would be a struggle for manufacturers still trying to recoup from the last one.
Hope on the horizon: a vaccine booster
Pfizer/BioNTech is developing a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine that could protect against the Delta variant and other strains. The company hopes to submit the third dose vaccine to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by next month. Pfizer recommends a third dose of its vaccine be administered six to 12 months after the second dose. They believe this will offer maximum protection against COVID-19 and its variants.
In a replay of 2020, we are once again waiting and hoping for a vaccine to slow a burgeoning pandemic and prevent further — potentially catastrophic — economic shutdowns. A Delta variant vaccine, or effective booster, can’t come soon enough.