What is the Delta Variant & Should You Be Concerned? Hint: mRNA Vaccines Help, A Lot

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06/30/2021

Photo: Boston Herald

BostonHerald.com

The virulent Delta coronavirus variant, first found in India and now spreading across the globe, appears to be more contagious — but is no match for mRNA vaccines.

“We know without question that both doses of Pfizer, both doses of Moderna are extremely protective, almost fully protective” against the Delta variant, said Dr. Shira Doron, infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center. She said there is little known at this point about Johnson & Johnson’s protection.

A Tuesday announcement from Cambridge-based Moderna stated that a recent study showed vaccination with the company’s mRNA vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies against several coronavirus variants including the Delta variant.

“These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants,” Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said.

The Delta variant is likely more contagious, Doron said, but that is difficult to prove. She said the variant is “probably virtually everywhere” including all 50 states.

The World Health Organization in a recent meeting recommended continued masking to help mitigate variants.

“Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products.

“People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene. … This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing,” Simao said.

Doron said the suggestion to have vaccinated people continue masking isn’t necessary.

“Vaccinated people are protected,” she said. “There is absolutely no question that vaccinated people are protected.”

Doron said at this point there is no need to preemptively act against the Delta variant by changing public health measures.

“It’s not fair to people,” she said.

Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said recent data shows about 13% of Massachusetts coronavirus cases are the Delta variant.

He said about 20% of the state’s population remains unvaccinated, and large, unmasked gatherings over the summer could cause “mini surges.”

But Kuritzkes, like Doron, said people shouldn’t be too concerned and there is no need to reimplement public health measures right now.

“It’s certainly something that bears watching, but I think the vast majority of people who have been fully vaccinated can still be assured they are going to be protected from developing severe disease,” Kuritzkes told the Herald.

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