Delta variant may be most contagious virus ever: Smallpox eradication pioneer

Brilliant felt there was only low probability a 'super variant' of COVID could emerge

larry brilliant Larry Brilliant | Via Wikimedia Commons

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in multiple parts of the world, a veteran epidemiologist has warned that unless emphasis is laid on vaccination globally, new variants of the virus could emerge.

Larry Brilliant was a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) team that helped eradicate smallpox. Brilliant is now founder and CEO of Pandefense Advisory, a pandemic response consultancy. During his work to eradicate smallpox with the WHO, Brilliant had lived in India for nearly a decade.

Speaking to CNBC in the US on Sunday, Brilliant warned the delta variant of COVID-19 “may be the most contagious virus" ever.

“I think we’re closer to the beginning than we are to the end [of the pandemic], and that’s not because the variant that we’re looking at right now is going to last that long... Unless we vaccinate everyone in 200 plus countries, there will still be new variants," Brilliant told CNBC.

Delta spread pattern

Using a prediction model he developed to map the COVID outbreaks in San Francisco and New York, Brilliant noted "delta variant spreads so quickly that 'it basically runs out of candidates' to infect,” CNBC reported. This was corroborated by the nature of the delta outbreaks in India and the UK.

"That may mean that this is a six-month phenomenon in a country, rather than a two-year phenomenon. But I do caution people that this is the delta variant, and we have not run out of Greek letters, so there may be more to come," Brilliant told CNBC.

Brilliant reasoned that there was only a low probability that a 'super variant' of COVID could emerge. He added that such an outbreak would be catastrophic and emphasised the need for universal vaccination.

Brilliant said people who were over 65 years of age and were fully vaccinated over six months ago may need a booster shot on account of their weaker immune systems.