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'It's twice as contagious': White House Vaccinations Coordinator says new data increases need for vaccinations

This early CDC data suggests a vaccinated person could transmit the virus just as easily as an unvaccinated person

ST. LOUIS — The CDC released some new data today on the Delta variant of COVID-19 that has health officials concerned. 

KSDK sat with one of the country's top leaders in the vaccine rollout and found out how this new data could affect the White House’s plan to vaccinate as many people as possible. 

The CDC did publicly release new data Friday, but there was also an internal presentation that the Washington Post got a hold of and released.

In it, the agency says the delta variant spreads as quickly as chickenpox and can be much more severe than we may have realized.

RELATED: CDC document warns delta variant appears to be as contagious as chickenpox

We talked with the White House Vaccinations Coordinator, Dr. Bechara Choucair, on Friday. He said this puts even more pressure on health officials to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

"The fact that now we have a variant that's twice as contagious, much more contagious, is another call, a wake-up call," Dr. Choucair said. "It's a call to action for these folks to get vaccinated."

The report shows a chart that compares the delta variant to other contagious diseases.

Researchers found it could be just as contagious as chickenpox, and is more contagious than smallpox, polio and the common cold.

"It's twice as contagious as other variants, and this is a concern, particularly for those who are not vaccinated now," Dr. Choucair said. "The fact remains that we have three vaccines that are very effective."

The CDC also discovered that vaccinated and unvaccinated people who contract the virus carry similar viral loads, or the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood. This early data indicates a vaccinated person could transmit the virus just as easily as an unvaccinated person.

Reports say this data is what led the CDC to change its mask guidance earlier this week.

RELATED: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in parts of US where COVID is surging

But, the data should also encourage more people to protect themselves in another way: with the vaccine. 

"The vaccines work, they're very effective at preventing you from having severe consequences of COVID-19 including hospitalizations and death," Dr. Choucair said.

There are some people who think they don't need to be vaccinated if they've already had COVID-19 because their body has built up antibodies. But, Dr. Choucair says you still need to get the shot. He adds, "it's at a higher tighter and provides you with stronger protection against the reinfection"

Incentives are a big part of the effort to get more people vaccinated?

Missouri launched its vaccine incentive program, or VIP, this month, giving 900 people the chance to win $10,000 in a drawing every two weeks. 

This week, President Biden pushed state and local governments to offer $100 incentives to people who choose to get the vaccine

"We know from certain surveys that a third of those who are unvaccinated would actually get more incentivized to get vaccinated for $100," Dr. Choucair said. "That's why we're asking states and locals to leverage the American rescue plan dollars to create incentives for people."

You can read the internal presentation below:

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