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COVID-19 delta variant and vaccines: Which are most effective? Here’s what we know

Preliminary data on the efficacy of current vaccines is uplifting.

COVID-19 delta variant and vaccines: Which are most effective? Here’s what we know
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As you may have heard, the dreaded delta variant is well on its way to becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19 traversing the world, in all its 60%-more-transmissible glory.

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First, breathe: Mutations and variants of COVID-19 are going to happen. And they’re going to have names. This one is called delta. Conveniently, for vaccine purposes, it’s rather similar to the original strain. Preliminary data on current vaccines’ efficacy is uplifting:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccineLast month a study of 1,054 people ill with delta found that doses are 88% effective at preventing symptomatic delta infection. Another study of 14,019 delta patients found two doses to be 96% effective against hospitalization.
  • AstraZeneca: That same study of 1,054 delta patients found that two doses are 60% effective at preventing symptomatic delta disease, and the latter study found two doses to be 92% effective against hospitalization.

Note that both vaccines’ protection rates for the alpha variant are only 5-6% more effective. Though this research is very preliminary—you eventually want to see millions of patients, not thousands—other studies have observed roughly similar differences in effectiveness between the two vaccines.

  • Moderna: In lab testing, the vaccine recently produced effective antibodies against delta. This study took place in a lab—not real life—by testing the blood serum of just eight vaccinated volunteers for antibodies against various strains. And the data is provided by Moderna. But it’s a positive sign.

In short: The vaccines likely provide standard but not exemplary protection against delta. The oh $@&* substantial risk of delta comes for unvaccinated populations, especially clumps of such people, especially adults, for whom the more severe delta variant may have a hospitalization rate 85% higher, according to a Lancet study, and may be more prevalent in “younger, more affluent” populations.

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