So many of us thought this fall would mean a return to something close to normal after a tough pandemic year. But the Delta variant is throwing a wrench in our plans. It’s a more contagious variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 and has cases rising around the DC Metro area. Delta is causing alarm after encouragingly low numbers earlier this spring. But don’t panic–vaccination and common-sense protocols go a long way in taking the bite out of the Delta variant.
What Is The Delta Variant?
The Delta variant is a mutation of the virus that causes COVID-19. It was first identified in December in India and found in the US in March of this year. Officially known as B.1.617.2, it’s now the dominant COVID strain in the US. The biggest concern with the Delta variant is that it’s highly contagious. It’s more contagious than the Alpha variant that hit the US in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s even more transmissible than the common cold or influenza. Scientists don’t yet know if the Delta variant is making people sicker than previous strains. However, some studies suggest that it may lead to higher hospitalization rates than earlier variants. Data also indicates that the Delta variant has a more significant impact on children and adults under 50.
Will My COVID Vaccine Protect Me Against The Delta Variant?
People who aren’t vaccinated against COVID are at the highest risk of infection and illness from the Delta variant. The three FDA-approved vaccines are safe and effective and offer excellent protection against the Delta variant. “Breakthrough” COVID infections have been reported in fully vaccinated people. These breakthrough infections generally lead to much milder cases and prevent severe illness and hospitalization. However, if you have received just one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, your protection against Delta is lower. So make sure to get that second dose on time. Studies indicate that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine also offers solid protection against the Delta variant, but it may be less effective than the mRNA vaccines. If you got the single-dose J&J shot, you might need a booster down the road. Remember that all three vaccines dramatically reduce your chances of hospitalization and death against Delta and other known variants. If you or your child are over age 12 and are not vaccinated, talk with your primary care provider right away, and make that appointment. Many primary care providers and pediatricians now offer COVID vaccines in-office.
What if I am Immunocompromised?
The FDA has already approved and recommended a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for severely or moderately immunocompromised people. Comprehensive Primary Care is currently offering a recommended third dose of the Moderna vaccine for immunocompromised patients. This is not considered a booster, rather an additional dose and is indicated in situations including:
- Patients being treated for cancer
- Organ transplant recipients taking immunosuppressant medications
- Patients who have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years
- Patients with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
- Patients with advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Patients under treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
Will I Need a Booster?
Starting September 20, CPC will begin offering booster shots for non-immunocompromised patients who received two doses of the Moderna vaccine at least eight months ago. Priority will be given to seniors and healthcare workers. If you received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, CPC will refer you to local pharmacies and clinics offering Pfizer booster shots.
What Other Steps Can I Take To Protect Against The Delta Variant?
Face masks remain one of the best ways to prevent COVID infections in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The CDC updated its guidelines last month to recommend that vaccinated and unvaccinated people return to wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces. Children in grades K-12 should also wear masks while in school to protect themselves, their classmates and the adults in their lives. According to the CDC, other familiar precautions to protect yourselves and others against Delta include:
- Practice social distancing.
- Continue to wash hands frequently.
- Avoid crowds.
- Clean and sanitize surfaces.
- Continue to watch for COVID symptoms and test as needed.
Do I Still Need COVID Testing If I’m Vaccinated?
Because of the transmissibility of the Delta variant and the possibility of breakthrough infections, vaccinated individuals should continue to look out for symptoms and get tested as needed.
If you have COVID symptoms, you should get tested and stay away from other people until your results come back–even if you are vaccinated. If your result is positive, quarantine for ten days.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Nausea or vomiting
The CDC recommends that vaccinated individuals who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms. They should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until they get a negative test result.
Protecting Yourself Against The Delta Variant
Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against all variants of the virus that causes COVID, including the Delta variant. If you’re unvaccinated and have questions or concerns, talk with your primary care provider. If you’re delaying your second dose because of scheduling concerns, make time to complete the process right away. Comprehensive Primary Care is excited to offer the COVID-19 vaccine at five Maryland locations. Sometimes, accessing the shot through a trusted care provider makes all the difference in taking this critical step in protecting our community.