The highly contagious Delta variant is the fastest and strongest coronavirus strain to date and will “pick up” the most vulnerable people, especially in places with low Covid-19 vaccination rates, World Health Organization officials warned on Monday.

Delta, first identified in India, has the potential to be “more deadly because it is more efficient in the way it is transmitted between people and ultimately it finds the at-risk people who are critically ill, hospitalized.” must be and possibly die, “said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Emergency Health Program, said during a news conference.

Ryan said world leaders and public health officials can help defend the most vulnerable by donating and distributing Covid vaccines.

“We can protect these vulnerable people, these frontline workers,” said Ryan, “and the fact that we, as general managers, didn’t [Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] has said again and again, is a catastrophic moral failure on a global scale. “

The WHO said on Friday that Delta is becoming the predominant variant of the disease worldwide.

The agency declared Delta a “questionable variant” last month. A variant can be described as “worrying” if, according to the health organization, it has been shown to be more contagious, fatal, or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.

Delta is now replacing Alpha, the highly contagious variant that swept Europe and later the United States earlier this year, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in a recent interview.

Studies suggest it is about 60% more transmissible than alpha, which was more contagious than the original strain that emerged from Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

“We have to vaccinate now. Let everyone vaccinate now,” said Offit.

Delta has now spread to 92 countries, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director for Covid, on Monday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it now accounts for at least 10% of all new cases in the United States and is on its way to becoming the dominant variant in the nation.

In the UK, Delta recently became the dominant variety, outperforming its native alpha variety, which was first spotted in the country last fall. The Delta variant now accounts for more than 60% of new cases in the UK

WHO officials said there are reports that the Delta variant also causes more severe symptoms, but that more research is needed to confirm these conclusions. However, there is evidence that the Delta strain may cause different symptoms than other variants.

Neither variant has really found the combination of high transmissibility and lethality, but Delta is “the most capable, fastest, and fittest of these viruses,” WHO officials said Monday.

“This particular Delta variant is faster, it is fitter, it will weed out the more susceptible ones more efficiently than previous variants. So if people are left without vaccination, they will be even more at risk,” said Ryan.

Van Kerkhove said, “Unfortunately we still don’t have the vaccines in the right places to protect people’s lives.”

WHO has urged wealthy nations, including the US, to donate cans. The Biden government detailed early Monday where it will be sending 55 million doses of vaccine, most of which will be distributed through COVAX, the WHO-supported immunization program.

“These vaccines are highly effective against serious illness and death. That is what they are intended for and that is what they must be used for,” said Van Kerkhove. “This is what COVAX and WHO and all of our partners have worked to ensure that these vaccines reach the most vulnerable people.”