The Delta Variant and Covid-19 Vaccines: What You Need to Know
The Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, the dominant strain in the U.S., has been driving up cases in areas with lower vaccination rates.
The Delta variant is also known as B.1.617.2, was first reported in India in late 2020. According to the World Health Organization, the virus has spread to at least 85 countries and has mutated into a variant causing concern in India.
Vaccines from Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. PFE 0.02%, MRNA – 0.61% Johnson & Johnson JNJ -0.33%, and, BioNTech BNTX -3.93% SE were tested in large clinical trials for their effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease rather than their ability to prevent infections completely. Some research shows that the vaccines are less effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 from the Delta variant, but they remain highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization.
Covid-19 vaccination rates have remained stagnant for weeks at around 57%.
Here is what we know about the Delta variant and vaccine so far.
What is the Delta Coronavirus Variant?
The Delta variant is the fastest, fittest, and most potent type of Coronavirus that causes Covid-19. According to virologists and epidemiologists, it is upending assumptions about the disease when nation-states are loosening restrictions and opening their economies.
In October, B.1.617 lineage was identified as another variant of the virus that causes Covid-19.
The most concerning variant of the lineage is the Delta, or B.1.617.2, which scientists claim has two advantages over earlier forms. First, the virus has been proven to be more infectious, and second, it is better able to evade vaccines. Though fully vaccinated individuals remain protected against illness.
What are the symptoms of Delta variants?
The CDC and other major health organizations haven’t yet distinguished symptoms of COVID-19 variants from the original strain. As of now, the CDC’s list of COVID-19 symptoms is as follows:
- Chills or fever
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of smell or taste
- Nausea or vomiting
- Runny nose or congestion
Delta variants are very hard to distinguish from other SARS-CoV-2 strains.
However, experts report that these symptoms are different from symptoms associated with original strains of the virus. For example, medics report that Delta is more likely to cause sore throat, stuffy nose, and headache, while the original strain was more likely to cause shortness of breath, cough, and loss of taste and smell.
What are the symptoms of an outbreak infection with the Delta variant?
The term breakthrough infection refers to someone who has detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 in their body 14 days or more after they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infection, so these cases are expected but still considered rare.
It is often the case that breakthrough infections cause disease -and have no symptoms. The ones that cause symptoms are usually very mild.
As a fully vaccinated person, however, you might experience mild symptoms. Those breakthrough infections never progress. Vaccines prevent that from happening.
As a result, those who have received vaccines have already primed their immune systems to recognize and fight the virus; antibodies are quick to get to work, preventing severe illness from taking hold.
What is the prevalence of the variant in the U.S.?
The problem is becoming more widespread every day. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that Delta now accounts for 93% of all known cases.
Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have increased as a result of its spread. Doctors and public officials say that nearly all of those hospitalized with Covid-19 in recent weeks were unvaccinated.
Will the existing vaccine work against this variant?
No vaccine is 100% effective. Research shows that vaccines used in the U.S. and Europe seem to work well in preventing symptoms of Covid-19 and severe illness, but they work slightly less effectively than earlier versions of the virus.
A study published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine found that vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and AstraZeneca PLC were highly effective against the Delta variant after two doses.
According to a Public Health England study, Pfizer’s vaccine was 88% successful at protecting against Delta symptomatic disease after two doses, while the Pfizer vaccine was only 36% effective after one dose. Compared with one shot, AstraZeneca’s shot was 67% effective at preventing symptomatic illness after two doses.
Even if I’m vaccinated against Delta, should I wear a mask?
In areas of the U.S. with substantial numbers of new cases of Covid-19, the CDC advises that vaccinated people should wear a mask to prevent transmission of the virus in enclosed public places. In addition, the agency advised schools to wear masks this fall irrespective of vaccination status.
The agency said this would help prevent a vaccinated person with a breakthrough infection from spreading the disease to the unvaccinated.
People who have been vaccinated should wear masks when they are in high-risk areas, but their decision to do so or not may vary depending on whether or not they are experiencing symptoms.
If you are vaccinated, get infected, have a fever, cough up a lung, and have a sore throat, you must wear a mask. The real question should vaccinate people who are asymptomatic wear masks to prevent spreading disease? There is no data to support it yet.
Despite having Covid-19 or being vaccinated against it, can I still get this variant?
Re-infections are possible, but second infections are usually less severe than first infections. By neutralizing antibodies, memory B-cells, and T-cells that can fight infection, vaccines probably prevent severe disease. However, researchers say that T-cells recognize viral cells in more ways than neutralizing antibodies and may retain the ability to fight variants.
Individuals who have been vaccinated need not worry about the Delta variant. However, the risk of contracting the disease is high if you are not vaccinated.
What are your chances of spreading the virus if you are vaccinated but infected with the Delta variant?
Researchers and doctors say this is one of the most urgent questions about Delta.
Vaccinated individuals at risk of covid-19 infection, including through the Delta variant, are most likely to develop a strong immune response that will quickly control and clear the infection. The vaccine limits the amount of covid-19 that the vaccinated person sheds.
Vaccine or not, you’re infected. However, it is hoped that your viral load will be significantly lower than if you weren’t vaccinated.
When suspecting COVID-19, what should you do?
To be safe, isolate yourself from others if you experience any of the symptoms above. Consult your doctor immediately if you are unsure if you have COVID-19’s Delta variant or another strain.
COVID-19 is now responsible for over 600,000 deaths in the U.S. Vaccines prevent severe symptoms, but if you’re not vaccinated, you’re just as likely to get sick as you were with the original strain.
Controlling Variants Requires Stopping Transmission
It is a challenging time for humanity as the virus continues to mutate and evolve potential mechanisms to overcome the immune defenses that its hosts have strived so hard and sacrificed so much to develop. Inhibiting the spread of the virus is crucial.
The more infections, the more likely mutations will occur, and selection will favor the best mutations to improve the virus. Vaccination is the best weapon to prevent transmission.