Family Health

The 6 Things You Need To Know To Protect Your Family From the Delta Variant

Published: July 12, 2021

Thanks in large part to the number of Americans rolling up their sleeves, COVID-19 numbers have dramatically decreased. Vaccinated individuals are reentering society and reuniting with cautious optimism.

But just as hope has grown – over the possibility of this pandemic soon being behind us – so has the number of individuals deciding to forgo the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccination. The result? A new coronavirus variant – the Delta variant – that has led to a lot of questions and concern.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your family safe:

It’s Highly Contagious

The Delta variant is another form of the COVID-19 virus. This variant is worrisome because it’s more contagious – and that’s what makes it more dangerous.  

Research indicates that a person may need less exposure time to become infected, as this variant is so good at spreading and infecting others. We saw it take off and overwhelm India and Missouri (particularly in pockets with low vaccination numbers), leading to more hospitalizations and even deaths in those areas.

With this variant, social distancing can only help so much. It’s hitting the unvaccinated the hardest – even here, locally.

Vaccination Is Still Effective Against It

While we don’t yet know if the Delta variant is more deadly, we do know that vaccinated individuals are significantly more protected than those who are unvaccinated.

According to recent studies, full vaccination with the Moderna vaccine is 88% effective at protecting against symptomatic infection caused by Delta. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 93% effective. It's important to note that one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is only 33% effective against Delta, which reinforces the importance of getting both shots and maintaining caution between shots.

It’s expected that more vaccinated people will test positive for COVID-19 because of the Delta variant, but those cases will not result in severe infection with hospitalizations and/or deaths. The same cannot be guaranteed for cases among unvaccinated people.

There’s some concern that further mutation of the Delta variant could eventually render our vaccines less effective, but thankfully, we haven’t seen that happen. And given the speedy production of our highly effective mRNA vaccines, there’s a good probability that we’d see another timely rollout of an updated vaccine if and when necessary.

Masking Is Still a Good Idea

Thanks to previous mask mandates, public places and businesses were once filled with mask wearers. Now, most public places and business run off the honor system: If you’re unvaccinated, you need to mask. Based on our local vaccination rates (and what I’m seeing in the grocery store), it’s apparent that this system isn’t being honored by many, which is disappointing.

It’s still up to vaccinated individuals if they’d like to continue to masking in public areas. This is decided by local health departments with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The World Health Organization, however, is recommending that the vaccinated continue to mask. And in my opinion, it makes a lot of sense – especially to ward off other circulating viruses.

It Can Easily Be Confused With Other Viral Illnesses

Speaking of circulating viruses, RSV, the common cold and other viral illnesses are currently on the rise. And there continues to be overlapping symptoms of these illnesses and COVID-19, including:

  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Sore throat

If you or someone in your household has any of these symptoms, you cannot assume that it’s “just a cold.” Now that we have other viruses circulating due to unmasking and more social interaction, don’t make assumptions. Get tested.

You Can Still Protect Your Children Who Aren’t Yet Eligible To Be Vaccinated

For families with children who are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, here are some simple reminders to help ensure their safety:

  • Unvaccinated kids should be masking in public places.
  • Outdoor activities are best.
  • Indoor activities carry more risk, but if you’re gathering with families who are largely vaccinated (parents and older/eligible children), the risk of spread is minimal.

The higher the vaccination percentage of the people your child comes in contact with, the higher protection they’ll have.

If you’re a parent who’s still on the fence about vaccinating your eligible child, please understand this: The chance of your child experiencing serious complications with COVID-19 far outweighs the chance of your child experiencing serious complications with the vaccine. We have seen the variant in Brazil lead to a significant number of hospitalizations and deaths among children. Why take that chance?

And if you’re able to look beyond yourself and your family, consider this: Vaccinated children protect others around them, such as those who cannot get the vaccine or those in whom the vaccine is less effective (those with weakened immune systems due to older age, medications or medical conditions). 

Finally, a reminder: For school-aged children, education is best in person with their teachers and classmates. As a parent, I’d certainly hate to see schools go back to remote learning due to unvaccinated students or teachers.

It’s estimated that children younger than 12 will be eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in September. Continue to encourage masking so we can help keep our children healthy until then.

It Warrants a Conversation With Your Provider

I hope that the worst of this pandemic is behind us, but I can only say that with any degree of confidence for the vaccinated population.

With this more contagious variant and likely new things on the horizon, the unvaccinated are taking a huge gamble. In fact, the worst may be yet to come for the unvaccinated younger population (those in their 30s, 40s and 50s).

A recent analysis of CDC data showed that over 99% of COVID-19 deaths and over 99% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are in unvaccinated persons. It’s heartbreaking. These hospitalizations and deaths can be prevented – with the vaccine.

If you have more questions surrounding the Delta variant, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider for insight and guidance. Methodist is committed to providing you and your family accurate, up-to-date information in an effort to keep our communities safe.

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About the Author

Dr. Jessica Jones enjoys helping patients solve their medical problems. Seeing medical care as similar to detective work, Dr. Jones saw becoming an Infectious Disease Specialist as a natural fit. The Creighton University medical school graduate completed her residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. 

You can see Dr. Jones at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Infectious Disease Clinic. 

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