As we continue to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the United States, it seems like another challenge is unfolding before us – the COVID-19 Delta variant.
What Is the COVID-19 Delta Variant?
All viruses, including the coronavirus, mutate, and this is not something new or unexpected. When there is a change or mutation in the virus’s genes, it may become more lethal or contagious than its previous versions, which gets classified as a variant. The Delta variant has been termed a ‘variant of concern’ as it spreads quickly and appears to be more easily transmitted from one person to another. (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant is responsible for about 83 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States. Data also indicates that the World Health Organization (WHO) regards Delta as the ‘fittest and fastest’ variant. (Hagen, 2021)
Infections and Spread of the Delta Variant
Currently, Delta is the predominant strain in the United States. It is 2x more contagious and may even cause more severe illness compared to the previous variants. The most significant cause for concern is the unvaccinated population. Since unvaccinated people are more likely to contract the virus, they’re also more likely to transmit it.
The previous variants produced less virus in the body of vaccinated people than in those of unvaccinated people. In the case of the Delta variant, it makes the same high amount of virus, irrespective of whether the person is vaccinated or not. Like the other variants, the amount of virus produced by the Delta variant also goes down faster in fully vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people. This means that fully vaccinated people are likely to be infectious for less time than unvaccinated people.
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Protect Against the Delta Variant?
One of the most crucial steps to limit the spread of the virus and minimize the possibility of severe illness is vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S are highly effective against the Delta variant. It’s important to remember that vaccines are not 100% effective against the Delta variant. Sometimes fully vaccinated people may get infected as well. In such cases, the vaccine will give them strong protection against severe illness and death.
A critical factor to staying protected is complete vaccination. Suppose you take a two-dose vaccine from Moderna or Pfizer. Then, in addition to getting both shots, you must also wait the recommended two-week period for the shots to take full effect. After vaccination, your risk is reduced significantly, and you will be safer than before you got the vaccines. (Katella, 2021)
Getting both doses of the vaccine is crucial. If you have taken one dose or are in between doses or decide to skip the second dose, you are only partially immune. In such cases, the vaccine will protect you from the older strains. Still, it may not offer adequate immunity to give you protection against the Delta variant.
Essential Things to Keep In Mind
The Delta variant has become a super-spreader, and the unvaccinated population is at significant risk. It’s important to protect family members such as those who are not fully vaccinated, children under 12, and people with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
Whether you are vaccinated or not, it’s critical to follow the CDC prevention guidelines at all times. Wearing a face mask provides additional protection. The WHO recommends wearing a mask even for those who are fully vaccinated.
When you’re outdoors, ensure that you are keeping a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and other people. It’s best to avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places like bars, fitness centers, restaurants, or movie theaters.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially if you’ve been outdoors in a crowded place or have been sneezing or coughing. It’s essential to wash your hands before eating, after handling your mask, after using the restroom, after caring for someone unwell, before touching your face, etc.
If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Cover your hands well with the sanitizer and rub until your hands feel dry. It’s also advisable to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
If you notice any symptoms such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, take your temperature and stay alert to see how the symptoms develop.
While no one can predict if there will be more variants and how they will behave, it’s crucial to stay vigilant. We must continue all efforts to prevent transmission by getting ourselves vaccinated and encouraging those around us to get vaccinated as soon as possible if they’re unvaccinated.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. “New Variants of Coronavirus: What You Should Know.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/a-new-strain-of-coronavirus-what-you-should-know.
Hagen, Ashley. “How Dangerous Is the Delta Variant (B.1.617.2)?” ASM.org, 2021, asm.org/Articles/2021/July/How-Dangerous-is-the-Delta-Variant-B-1-617-2.
CDC. “Delta Variant: What We Know about the Science.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021,
Katella, Kathy. “5 Things to Know about the Delta Variant.” Yale Medicine, Yale Medicine, 13 Aug. 2021, www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-Delta-variant-covid.