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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The public conversation around who's at risk as the Delta variant continues to spread in the U.S. has gone off the rails, and it's very possible that it will just get worse.

What we're watching: Even as experts and officials try to put vaccinated Americans' risk in context, the world is still gathering data on the vaccines' effectiveness. Reassuring the majority of vaccinated Americans they d0n't need to freak out could backfire if it causes those who are at risk to let down their guard.

Driving the news: Public health experts spent the weekend trying to reassure vaccinated Americans that they're not at a high risk of coronavirus infection, and certainly not of hospitalization or death.

  • But at the same time, researchers around the world are trying to determine how much the vaccines' effectiveness against severe disease wanes over time, and some countries are going ahead with booster shots for immunocompromised and elderly people.
  • Israel has recommended that immunocompromised people and those 60 and older receive a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and Germany plans to begin offering boosters to the elderly and at-risk beginning in September, AFP reports.
  • U.S. officials increasingly think that at least some Americans will need booster shots in the coming months, and Pfizer has also been publicly making the case for boosters.

Between the lines: Risk may look a lot different for vaccinated nursing home residents and older Americans, especially those who received their shots early on, than a vaccinated 20-something without any health conditions.

  • The number of nursing home cases is rising, in part because nearly 2 in 10 residents aren't vaccinated and more than 4 in 10 nursing home workers aren't.
  • But breakthrough cases are also more problematic in nursing homes, tweeted Ashish Jha, dean of Brown's School of Public Health. "[Nursing home] residents were among the first to get vaccinated," Jha wrote. "Based on Israeli data, their immunity may be waning."
  • "And second, they are vulnerable, often frail," he added. "So a breakthrough infection, which might be a nuisance for a healthy person, can be very serious for a frail person."

The scientific world is trying to gather and interpret new data in real time, and nuanced data is difficult to communicate well to an anxious and frustrated public.

  • But data about Delta's transmissibility has not been communicated well.
  • "The Biden administration's handling of the Delta surge has left Americans confused and frustrated, fueling media overreaction and political manipulation," Axios' Mike Allen wrote over the weekend.

The bottom line: The vaccines work extremely well, including against Delta, and the vaccinated are at much lower risk right now than those who aren't vaccinated.

  • But that doesn't mean no one who is vaccinated is at risk, and it also doesn't mean that anyone's risk can't change over time.

Go deeper

19 hours ago - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.
5 hours ago - Technology

TikTok drives new nostalgia economy

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Older brands, trends and technologies are making a comeback as younger consumers desperately chase slower, less chaotic times.

The big picture: TikTok's algorithm makes it easy for flashback items to resurface and quickly go viral both on its platform and eventually on other social networks.