The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives in one way or another. With the efforts of our healthcare providers, social distancing, and–most importantly–the COVID-19 vaccines, new cases and deaths due to the coronavirus have significantly decreased.
However, recently the Delta coronavirus variant has emerged, which Dr. Fauci says may be a great threat to the nation’s attempt to eliminate COVID-19. Below we’ll take a look at what a COVID-19 variant is, what specifically the Delta variant is, and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
What is a COVID-19 variant?
COVID-19 variants are subtypes of the virus that are genetically different from the main strain. Initially, variants were named after the location of origin. However, after this type of naming scheme was criticized as possibly creating a negative stigma towards a particular location, the World Health Organization (WHO) implemented the Greek letter nomenclature to identify the different COVID-19 variants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C), the variants circulating in the U.S. right now are the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and P.1 (Gamma).
What is the Delta variant, and why is it getting more attention than other variants?
The Delta variant is referred to as the subtype of the virus first identified in India. This variant is garnering the most attention as it is the main strain that is being rapidly transmitted across the world.
According to the C.D.C, the Delta strain has increased transmissibility and may be more resistant to COVID-19 vaccinations and antibody treatments. In fact, the Delta variant is thought to be the most transmissible variant yet. Dr. Fauci recently confirmed that the Delta variant now makes up about 20% of all new cases. One study showed that people who contracted the variant are twice as likely to be hospitalized as those infected with the Alpha variant (i.e. the first variant found in the U.S.).
How do you protect yourself and loved ones?
The CDC recommends taking precautions similar to those enforced during the previous COVID-19 outbreak, including practicing social distancing 6 feet apart, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and washing hands often with soap and water. For those who are not vaccinated, it is imperative that you continue to wear your mask over your mouth and nose. Even those who are vaccinated should consider wearing their mask in crowded or indoor areas to protect against the possibility of a breakthrough infection and to protect the unvaccinated.
As a pharmacy, we believe that the most important thing any individual can do is to get the vaccine. This will not only help protect you from the Delta variant, but also those around you who are either elderly, immunocompromised, under 12 years of age, or for any other reason have heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. A recent study cited by Dr. Fauci showed that two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, the vaccine was 88% effective against the Delta variant and 93% effective against the Alpha when dealing with symptomatic disease. If you are struggling to find a location to receive the vaccine, the Vaccines.gov website can help.
Nonetheless, it is still important to take the safety precautions listed above—even if you are vaccinated. With the combined efforts of the COVID-19 vaccines, healthcare providers, and continued social distancing and safety practices, we can fight against the Delta variant and protect one another.