A Q&A with Dr. Erik Vanderlip

The rise of the Delta variant really threw us a curveball, didn't it? Just as we thought it was OK to travel, gather, and take our masks off indoors, we're back to wondering what's safe and what's not.

We know the Delta variant is both scary and frustrating, but we're here to help you better understand it so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Our Chief Medical Officer, Erik Vanderlip, answers your biggest Delta variant questions below:


What symptoms does the Delta variant cause?

Erik: "Delta variant symptoms are identical to native varieties of the virus: fever, cough, shortness of breath, and general cold-like symptoms are the most common. Like regular COVID-19, the Delta variant can cause a wide range of symptoms, from none to mild to severe illness."


Is the Delta variant more contagious than the other strains?

Erik: "Yes, there is strong evidence that the Delta variant is 2-3 times more contagious than native COVID-19 strains. One person with the Delta variant can infect 5-8 other unvaccinated people, compared to 1.5-3 for native strains.  Delta COVID-19 is one of the most contagious illnesses we know."


Who is most at risk?  

Erik: "Unvaccinated folks are at the greatest risk.  Outside of that, people 65+ years of age, those with underlying illnesses (especially those whose compromised immune systems and heart and lung conditions), seem to be the most susceptible to severe illness and death."


What precautions should people take against the Delta variant?

Erik: "First and foremost, get vaccinated. All vaccines, and especially the mRNA vaccinations, appear to be generally effective against severe illness caused by all COVID-19 varieties to date. For fully vaccinated folks, it’s a good idea to mask up indoors — especially if you’re in groups of people whose vaccination status isn't known."


What are the risks of contracting a “breakthrough” infection?

Erik: “The vaccines appear to be between 70-80% effective against developing symptomatic infections from the Delta variant. However, the vast majority of breakthrough cases are very mild. If you’re vaccinated, your odds of avoiding severe illness, hospitalization, and death are around 25 times better than people who are unvaccinated.”


How severe are the breakthrough cases?

Erik:  "The vast majority of breakthrough cases are very mild. Many cases are caught through routine screening and testing, meaning that people were scheduled for a test as a part of screening in a nursing home or other setting and were found to be positive even though they didn’t know they had it."


Will I need a booster shot to protect me from the Delta variant?

Erik: "It appears that persons with weakened immune systems would likely benefit from a booster shot, and the FDA is in the process of approving that at this time.  Recent data released from both manufacturers of the mRNA vaccines suggest that immunity remains strong at least 6 months post-vaccination. I suspect that, in this first wave, persons who have healthy immune systems won’t need a booster shot.  However, many studies will need to be completed until we know this for sure."

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