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The Delta Variant: Here’s What We Know

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With more and more Americans making the decision to get vaccinated against COVID-19, our rate of infection and hospitalizations were decreasing, and life looking like “normal” seemed to be just around the corner. However, now a coronavirus variant that was first detected in India — known as the delta variant — is becoming more rampant in the United States.

Experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are calling the delta variant even more dangerous than other variants we’ve seen so far, in terms of transmission rate. At this point, about one in four coronavirus infections in the U.S. are the delta variant, according to the CDC.

How is the Delta Variant Different?

Right now, the delta variant is considered the most contagious variant yet. In a recent White House briefing, it was shared that over 20% of coronavirus cases are the delta variant, and that amount has been doubling approximately every two weeks. This means the delta variant is spreading more easily than the original strain of coronavirus.

Based on what we know about how the delta variant has spread in other countries already, we can see that it could cause a problem for unvaccinated people. Of course, there is no way to know for certain that the delta variant will spread quickly and easily in America as it did elsewhere, but there’s a good chance it will.

There’s been some other evidence presented that shows the delta variant may be able to escape the protective antibodies someone develops after a COVID-19 infection or vaccination, though we’ve also seen protection against this variant in vaccinated people.

There is also a concern with the delta variant possibly leading to more severe symptoms than the original coronavirus strain, based on a study out of Scotland; however, this is still being researched and is mostly unknown at this point.

The symptoms of the delta variant — varying in severity — are similar to other COVID-19 strains, with headaches, sore throat and runny nose being most frequently reported so far.

Vaccines and the Delta Variant

Before its recent spread in the United States, the delta variant swept through the United Kingdom. Research there has shown that those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (meaning two weeks had passed since their second vaccine dose) were protected against the new variant, with effectiveness against hospitalization reaching over 90%.

Scientists have found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine protect effectively against the Delta variant, and expect the Moderna vaccine to provide similar protection. In areas with a large population of unvaccinated people, it’s possible that outbreaks could occur similar to what we saw during the winter.

If you’re vaccinated, our experts suggest continuing to practice safe hygiene and overall do not anticipate the delta variant will cause major health concerns. The protection given by a single dose of a two-dose vaccine is not nearly as high, and those who are not vaccinated at all would be considered high risk.

In the United States, over 60% of the population is vaccinated against coronavirus, so most people will not be impacted by the delta variant. However, children who aren’t yet approved for the vaccine and adults who have chosen not to get vaccinated need to keep these safety precautions in place:

  • In public, especially indoors, wear your face mask and keep a safe distance from others
  • In public and at home, wash your hands thoroughly and often, and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home frequently
  • Read the CDC's steps to protect yourself and others

What To Do From Here

If you’re not vaccinated yet and are eligible, get the shot. Encourage your loved ones to also get vaccinated. The more people who do, the more likely we are to slow the spread of the delta variant and other coronavirus variants. For more information on the coronavirus vaccine, visit our Resource Hub.

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