The highly contagious Delta variant is threatening even fully vaccinated people. According to a new study by researchers at Imperial College London, people who received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are half as likely to be infected with the Delta variant than unvaccinated individuals. But this means vaccinated people are still potential targets.
The researchers warned that a new vaccine may be needed to specifically focus on the Delta variant to allay community concerns, says Forbes.
In the meantime, there are rules to mitigate the chance of infection as we learn more about the powerful mutant. New cases of COVID-19 among those who have received the vaccine means that we still need to keep up our guard.
According to The New York Times, breakthrough cases in the vaccinated are rare and those who do become sick are less likely to suffer severe illness. However, experts warn that while vaccinations do work and afford more freedom, there is still a risk of becoming infected. Here are answers to some common questions about keeping you and your family safe:
- Why is the Delta variant a threat to vaccinated people? Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth says that no vaccine is 100% effective. He compares the Delta variant to “a viral hurricane that presents a huge challenge to even a vaccinated immune system.”
- What is the risk of getting a breakthrough infection? The Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed data on breakthrough cases reported by official sources in 50 states and D.C. “The data reported from these states show that breakthrough cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rare events among those who are fully vaccinated,” wrote the researchers. “The rate of breakthrough cases reported among those who are fully vaccinated is well below 1% in all reporting states.” That rate ranged from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.29% in Alaska. However, experts say that your risk of a breakthrough infection increases at large, crowded gatherings, such as the packed Lollapalooza event held in Chicago where 100,000 people gathered for a four-day music festival. “All these people crushed together is an ideal situation for the spread of Delta,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Yale School of Public Health.
- When should I wear a mask? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone living in orange or red zones on their color-coded map of COVID-19 outbreaks should mask up, especially indoors. Experts also suggest that to get the best protection during the Delta deluge, wear an N95 or KN95 mask. However, if you are indoors with other fully vaccinated people, healthcare experts say it probably isn’t necessary to wear a mask, according to the Times.
- What about dining in restaurants? The risk is lower in areas with high vaccination rates and low cases of COVID-19, so the answer depends on where you live. Parents of unvaccinated children, or those with compromised immune systems, should eat outdoors or order takeout.
- What about traveling? According to the Times, experts say the risk of getting COVID-19 is greater in airport terminals than on the planes themselves, where the air is refreshed every few minutes. Mask mandates are still in effect on airlines and again, it is best to upgrade your mask to ensure the best protection. This rule is especially true if you are traveling on public transportation. If you don’t have an N95 or KN95, double mask.
- What about unvaccinated children and older relatives? It may be safe to hang out with other vaccinated people, but families with unvaccinated children and older, more vulnerable relatives should exercise caution. As schools open and as the Delta variant continues to spread, experts say that families who plan to call on elderly or immunocompromised relatives should limit their exposure to others a week before their visit. “I would strongly consider masking up when indoors with vulnerable individuals,” J. Alex Huffman, an aerosol scientist at the University of Denver, told the Times.
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