Clinically Speaking: Delta Variant + COVID-19 Update

Learn more about what makes the COVID-19 Delta variant more potent than others and how to stop its spread, including vaccine boosters.

Although more than 356 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to individuals in the U.S., we continue to see news of the alarming rise in cases of people contracting the dangerous and highly transmissible Delta variant.

Increasingly, COVID-19 is becoming known as the pandemic among the unvaccinated, and it is hitting younger, unvaccinated people especially hard.

The COVID-19 Delta Variant

The Delta variant was first detected in the U.S. in March 2021 and supplanted the prior strain, called the Alpha variant, within a few short weeks. Delta is now the dominant variant in the U.S. and around the globe. According to the CDC, more than 80% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. today are caused by the Delta variant.

The Delta variant is more contagious because of its greater potency. That means it transmits more virus into the air, so more people can easily be exposed. It also appears that the Delta variant requires fewer particles to cause the infection compared to the original alpha variant.

Most concerning is that there is evidence that the Delta variant causes more severe illness among individuals who have not been vaccinated.

For those who are fully vaccinated, studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in protecting against the most severe Delta variant symptoms, including reducing the risk of hospitalization and death. While there are cases of breakthrough infections, the vaccines have been shown to reduce the amount of time when someone who has contracted the virus can transmit it to others.

Children and the COVID-19 Delta Variant

If there was any good news about the original COVID-19 outbreak, it was that the virus seemed to spare children. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Delta variant.

While experts continue to try to get a true perspective on the rising cases among children, health care providers on the frontlines report seeing more children becoming critically ill with COVID-19. 

Right now, the best way to keep younger children safe is to have them wear masks, especially indoors, and make sure all the adults and older children around them are vaccinated. 

COVID-19 Vaccines Updates

The FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, making it the first COVID-19 vaccine to transition from emergency authorization status to full FDA approval.

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends vaccination for everyone age 12 and older. For children under 12, there are promising trials underway to study the effects in kids ages 5-11 to be sure that, if and when we begin vaccinating them against COVID-19, we can do it safely.

As for “boosters,” the nation’s top health officials made an announcement that they are recommending a third dose or “booster” for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines due to increased concerns over the Delta variant, as well as new data indicating that the effectiveness of these vaccines against COVID-19 may decline over time. It’s important to stay up to date with CDC recommendations to determine your eligibility and timing for when you should receive the booster.

The takeaway is that vaccination continues to be the best defense against COVID-19 even as we see cases of the dangerous Delta variant surge.

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