Dr. Robert Wachter:
Yes, it is somewhat concerning.
So, the — we have seen lots of different variants. Through 2020, I spent a lot of my time telling people there are tons of variants, they’re all — they’re not doing anything important.
But that changed with the Alpha variant, the one that was first reported from the U.K. And now it’s changed again with the Delta variant, the one that was first reported in India.
There are three things about variants to pay attention to. One is, are they more infectious? The second is, are they more serious? If you get it, are you more likely to get very sick and go to the hospital and die. The third is, are they resistant to vaccines or to immunity?
And the Delta variant is — appears to be more infectious than the Alpha variant, which was more infectious than the original. So it’s substantially better at its job in infecting people. It appears to be more serious. The data on that is a little bit less clear. But I think that the consensus is, it probably is more serious.
And it has some ability to evade the vaccine. The great news is, when you’re fully vaccinated, the vaccines work spectacularly well, as they do against the original. But you can tell that it has some superpowers because the first dose of your vaccine, which was 80 percent effective for Pfizer and Moderna with the original virus, now appears to be only 30 or 35 percent effective.
So you need to be fully vaccinated in order to stave off this variant. It’s now responsible for somewhere between 6 and 10 percent of the infections in the United States. And if we’re anything like the U.K. — and there’s no reason to believe we won’t be — within a month or two, it will become the dominant virus.
So, if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not any better at fighting off a virus than you were a year ago, but the virus has gotten substantially better at its job than it was a year ago. So it’s yet another reason that people really need to get vaccinated when they have the chance.