The success of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States means that death from the disease can now be prevented in most cases, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a Tuesday White House coronavirus briefing, Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., MPH, said that an almost 100% efficacy rate among currently available vaccines means that “every death due to COVID-19 is particularly tragic because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19 is, at this point, entirely preventable.

“This new virus forced too many of our families to accept death as an outcome for too many of our loved ones, but now this should not be the case,” she added. Americans have “chipped away” at the ability of an opportunistic virus to cause more illness and suffering, Walensky said. But “as long as there are those who are not vaccinated, COVID-19 will remain a threat.”

Delta variant accounts for 20% of new U.S. cases

Walensky said her agency is keeping an eye on the Delta coronavirus variant, which is spreading quickly throughout the country, much as it has abroad. In the past two weeks alone, the prevalence of cases resulting from this variant have doubled to just over 20%, she reported. 

Although current vaccines are known to protect against Delta, it represents mutations that could evolve to evade them, she added.

“And that’s why it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated now, to stop the chain of infection, the chain of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant,” she urged listeners.

The Delta variant already accounts for half of cases in U.S. regions 7 and 8, which include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, she added.