The Delta Variant Spreads More Easily, But Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Remains The Best Defense

A UT Health epidemiologist says even children who can’t yet get a shot are safer when vaccination rates are high.

By Jill Ament & Shelly BrisbinJune 23, 2021 11:13 am,

The Texas Department of State Health Services says close to 50% of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But concerns are growing among public health officials about the threat posed by a more highly contagious variant of the coronavirus.

Catherine Troisi is an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She told Texas Standard that the delta variant of COVID-19, first detected in India, appears to be about 60% more transmissible than the virus that preceded it.

“In terms of whether it causes more severe disease, there’s some indication that it does, but we’re still waiting on the full story on that,” Troisi said.

Public health officials are particularly concerned about the delta variant in areas where vaccination rates are low. But being fully vaccinated protects well against the variant.

Troisi says variants of COVID-19 also concern public health officials because each time the virus replicates itself, more variants could be created. There’s no guarantee that the current vaccines would stop a future variant.

Protecting Children

Troisi says parents whose children have weakened immune systems or some other condition that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19 should continue to be careful about exposure to the virus until a vaccine that’s approved for children under 12 becomes available, possibly this fall.

Healthy children can occasionally experience a “bad outcome” if they become infected with COVID-19. Troisi says assessing a family’s health risk, as well as the vaccination rate in their community, are good first steps in keeping everyone safe.

Older children who can be vaccinated should be, Troisi says – not only for their protection, but to slow the spread of the virus in the larger community.

“There are people out there who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, so they rely on others to be vaccinated to protect them,” she said.

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