The Delta Variant
The delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is one of the latest mutations of this persistent corona virus. So is this a big deal? We have already had several variants including one that originated in the UK and one in Brazil. Viruses want to survive so they adapt. Mutations occur naturally in viruses. If a particular mutation is more efficient in reproduction than the others, it survives and reproduces. The delta variant, which was first noted in India, is now the dominant form of SARS-Cov-2 in the US. So why be concerned? We define the infectivity of a virus by how easy it is for one person to transmit to another. We use the term R0 or R naught or Reproductive number. The number after the R represents how many people one person with the virus will infect. Chicken pox has an R of 8. Measles is 9. The original SARS-Cov-2 was only R 2.5 to 3. The delta variant is R 5-8. In other words it is almost as contagious as Chicken pox. I remember as a kid everyone got chicken pox. Of course we now have a Chicken Pox (varicella) vaccine and no kids get or die from it. The same happened with mumps and measles. We have almost eradicated those diseases.
So we should be concerned about the delta variant because it is so contagious. One hospitalist at a local hospital has told me that almost all of the people admitted with Covid-19 are in their 40s to 60s and are unvaccinated. The number of people with Covid-19 at that hospital is doubling every 8.5 days. From a reputable source at another hospital from one week in July, 11 people were admitted with Covid-19 with 10 unvaccinated. One was vaccinated and still got the disease, was quite ill for a week and then recovered. Nationwide 99% of people with Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Everyone who has not had the disease nor vaccinated will get Covid-19.
The Risk of Vaccines.
In the US there are 3 licensed vaccines: Moderna and Pfizer are both mRNA vaccines and J&J is a traditional vaccine. All are effective and safe. The mRNA vaccines are slightly more effective but require a 2nd shot 3-4 weeks after the first. What are the risks of taking these vaccines? Most vaccinated persons will get a sore arm and some fatigue for a day or 2 after, more pronounced after the second dose. J&J vaccine: 1 out of 1,000,000 young women in the 20-50 age group had cerebral sinus thrombosis (blood clots) Most recovered. MRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer): 4 out of 1,000,000, mostly young men, experienced myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). All recovered. Putting risk into perspective, you have a 1 out of 100,000 risk of being struck by lightning, 1 out of 10,000 risk of having a serious reaction to penicillin. So you are much more likely to be struck by lightning or get a serious reaction to penicillin than have a serious reaction to these vaccines. The vaccines do not cause infertility, are safe in pregnancy and do not alter DNA. On the other hand, if you get Covid-19 you have a high risk of getting myocarditis, blood clots or some “long haul” neurological issues. One out of every hundred persons dies from Covid-19.
There have definitely been some mixed messages, particularly about masking. Masks do help prevent spread. As to whether children should wear them, I am no authority. Ignore the politics and do what is best for you and your family and of course follow local regulations.
As your doctor, I am an applied scientist and follow the literature to keep up to date on vaccine recommendations. At the current time the delta variant is still sensitive to the 3 US vaccines. After review, I recommend that everyone over the age of 12 get the vaccine and do it now. The greater the reservoir of unvaccinated people to infect, the greater the likelihood of more variants and more disease. Let’s end this pandemic and get life back to normal.