Healthy You - Every Day

Delta Variant and How It's Changing the COVID-19 Landscape

Timothy Friel, MD, Chair, Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases for Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and Alex Benjamin, MD, LVHN Infection Control Officer, answer your questions about COVID-19 and delta variant

Image
town hall recap

It’s hard to believe that COVID-19 has been a part of our lives for almost 18 months. But, as we continue to learn more about the virus, new questions emerge. Timothy Friel, MD, Chair, Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases for Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and Alex Benjamin, MD, Chief Infection Control Officer, LVHN, answer some of your top questions about COVID-19, the delta variant and COVID-19 vaccines in a recent COVID-19 Town Hall on Facebook.

How many people in Pennsylvania have received COVID-19 vaccines?

Benjamin says that Pennsylvania has one of the higher vaccination rates in the country with nearly 52 percent of the state’s population fully vaccinated. 

How is the the delta variant different than other strains of COVID-19?

Friel describes the delta variant as a mutation of COVID-19 that first surfaced in India. It is now the dominant strain in many parts of the world, including the United States. This variant is up to 50 percent more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19 and poses a significant risk for those who are unvaccinated.

Are we seeing the delta variant in our area?

Friel says that the delta variant is now the predominant strain of COVID-19 and makes up over 80 percent of cases nationwide. He says that our area is no exception and we are seeing more cases of the delta variant in our region. Currently five percent of all COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania are the delta strain, however, that number goes up each week.

In Case You Missed It:

Watch Facebook Live recording of the COVID-19 Town Hall, Episode 3.

How can we stop other variants from forming?

According to Friel, the best strategy we have to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the prevention of new variants is to make sure people are vaccinated. “Vaccines save lives, they prevent new cases and they prevent unnecessary transmission. Ultimately our goal with cutting down transmission rates is to get those rates low enough that we’re not seeing a high likelihood of new, more dangerous, more transmissible, popping up,” he says. 

Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against the delta variant?

Friel says early numbers indicate that both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are holding up very well against the delta variant with efficacies in the high 80 or low 90 percentile range when it comes to preventing infection. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has efficacy levels dipping down into the 60 percentile range, but, there is still protection. Friel says the biggest benefit of the vaccines is that they are still up to 95 percent effective in preventing severe complications or hospitalization if you do become infected. 

Do I need a third COVID-19 shot to boost my immunity?

According to Benjamin, there is currently no evidence that a third booster shot is needed, however, that is something that researchers are looking into. In fact, Lehigh Valley Health Network is currently participating in a Pfizer/BioNTech study to see if a third booster shot would help prolong immunity. 

For more information on COVID-19, visit LVHN.org/COVID-19.

Explore More Articles