What is a variant?
Viruses are always changing. When a big change happens, scientists call it a new variant. Some variants disappear and never cause harm, while others can make a virus easier to spread, harder to treat, and/or more deadly. When variants occur, scientists and experts monitor them closely. Many variants of the COVID-19 virus have already been discovered and are being monitored.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is one of the COVID-19 variants that scientists are monitoring. This variant was first discovered in India in December 2020. Since then, it has spread to more than 90 countries. It was first found in the U.S. in March 2021 and is already the most common variant in the United States.
Below are answers to commonly asked questions about the Delta variant:
Why are people worried about the Delta variant?
Experts are worried about the Delta variant for two main reasons. First, the Delta variant spreads much more easily between people. Second, there is also concern that the Delta variant might cause more severe illness.
Are vaccines effective against the Delta variant and other variants?
Right now, scientists think that the COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are effective against the Delta variant and other variants that have been discovered. For vaccines with two doses, it is important to complete both doses for greatest protection.
For more information, please see GAVI’s “Five Things we Know about the Delta Variant.”
How do I protect myself, my family, and community from the Delta variant?
The best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the Delta variant is to be fully vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you are much more likely to get infected with the Delta variant, get seriously ill, and spread it to others.
Getting our entire communities vaccinated is one way to prevent variants like Delta from developing in the first place. The more viruses spread, the more they change and create variants like Delta. By getting many people vaccinated, we are making it less likely for the virus to spread and change.
If you haven’t been fully vaccinated, you should continue taking all precautions, including wearing your mask indoors in public places, staying 6 feet (2 meters) away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often.
Some health agencies and experts still recommend wearing a mask after you are fully vaccinated, especially if you live in an area where many people aren’t vaccinated or if you live with and near people who cannot be vaccinated at this time.
I have heard that fewer people are getting COVID-19 now in the United States. Does this mean I do not need to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your community against COVID-19 and variants like Delta. Although the number of COVID-19 cases may be going down in some areas, people who are not vaccinated do not have the same protections from COVID-19 as people who are vaccinated. Almost all COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people.
Because the Delta variant is so common and many communities no longer require protections like mask wearing and social distancing, the risk is much higher for those who are not fully vaccinated.
Can people get COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated? If so, does this mean the vaccine does not work?
For every vaccine - not just the COVID-19 vaccines - there is a small chance that you can still be infected even after being fully vaccinated. No vaccine is 100% effective in every person. This means that there will be a small number of people who will get COVID-19 even if they are fully vaccinated. However, these people are very unlikely to get seriously ill or be hospitalized, and it is extremely unlikely that they will die from COVID-19.
For more information, please see CDC’s “What You Should Know About the Possibility of COVID-19 Illness After Vaccination.”
Which COVID-19 vaccine would you recommend?
All COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are safe, effective, and decrease your risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 and variants like Delta. Therefore, when considering being vaccinated, the vaccine recommended is the one that is available to you (whether it is Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson).