Vaccines work well against COVID-19 Delta variant

The needle with the vaccine enters into ER nurse Dave Higgins' arm at Memorial Regional Health.
Craig Press file photo

Perhaps you’ve had COVID-19 already. Perhaps you’ve had one of the two vaccine doses but heard that you may feel under the weather the day after that second shot and are putting it off. Perhaps you figure you’re young and healthy and aren’t going to get all that sick even if you do catch the coronavirus. Or perhaps something else is keeping you from being vaccinated.

If you’re older than 12 and haven’t been vaccinated, consider getting the vaccine. The Delta variant is sweeping the planet. It is roughly 50% more contagious than the Alpha variant, which itself was roughly 50% more contagious than the “original” coronavirus strains. Multiply that out and we face a variant that spreads more than twice as easily as the coronavirus that burned around the world a year ago. To extend a baseball analogy, if the original coronavirus threw a 100 mph fastball, Alpha hits 150 mph and Delta 225 mph. That sort of competitive advantage is overwhelming.

“The presence of variants is directly correlated to the prevalence of vaccinated persons in the community,” said Dr. Richard Zane, chief innovation officer at UCHealth and professor and chairman of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Vaccines are like a wall. They prevent the variants from coming in. If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not protected against anything.”

Destined for domination

“We’re dealing with a strain that’s much more transmissible, which means it will spread more quickly and propagate the pandemic in Colorado,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health and leader of the Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Group.

In Colorado, Delta was first detected in late April in Mesa County. The Delta variant comprised 75% of new Colorado coronavirus cases as of the week of June 13. Zane says UCHealth now assumes that every new case is Delta.

“Everybody who has COVID has one of the variants, the Delta variant now being predominant. It is simply inevitable,” Zane said.

Vaccines available

UCHealth Primary Care Clinic – Craig, located at 595 Russell Street, offers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Please call 970.824.1020 for more information.

Vaccines drop Delta

If you’re vaccinated, you’re largely protected. Scientists in the UK studied the relative effectiveness of two-shot vaccines such as those of Pfizer and Moderna (Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine was first approved in late May in the United Kingdom) versus the Alpha and Delta variants. They found the vaccines to be 80% effective in stopping symptomatic disease from the Delta variant – that’s compared to 88% effectiveness of the vaccines against the Alpha variant. Vaccines stopped hospitalization for both Alpha and Delta variants more than 90% of the time.

But whereas the first vaccine dose was 49% effective against the Alpha variant, one dose only stopped the Delta variant 31% of the time. The second shot was critical, the researchers found.

Statewide and across the country, illnesses and deaths from the coronavirus have fallen sharply since the winter peak. The vast majority of the vulnerable over-65 set have been vaccinated. In Colorado, roughly half the population has been fully vaccinated, though younger demographics are lagging. Intensive care units do not generally risk being overwhelmed, and if there are local surges, the capacity exists across the health care system to share the load.

But consider that the roughly 300 daily coronavirus deaths across the United States – a trickle compared to the flood of more than 600,000 U.S. deaths since the start of the pandemic – is about triple the number of those who die in car accidents each day in this country. Consider also the now-expired dilemma of easing social distancing measures for the sake of commerce versus the need to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed. Colorado and most of the rest of the country are pretty much open for business. We don’t need to throttle the economy to ensure the health and safety of our fellow man. We simply must join the hundreds of millions who have already been fully vaccinated.


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