This past week of news about the Delta variant and breakthrough Covid infections for people who are fully vaccinated has caused me to reassess. A study released last week by Israeli scientists about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine indicates that, while it remains a strong shield against severe Covid, it is just 39 percent effective against infections from Delta. The data sample is much smaller than an earlier Israeli study of the vaccine’s effectiveness (which found Pfizer to be 95 percent back in January), but the implications are certainly worrisome.
For the unvaccinated among us, Delta is a true health risk. It is highly contagious, transmitting a thousand times the viral load of earlier variants and has a shorter incubation period. The vast majority of people now hospitalized with Covid in the U.S. are unvaccinated, and infection rates are on the rise again throughout the U.S., particularly in regions where people have been averse to vaccination.
But breakthrough cases worldwide are on the uptick, too. Last week, the Dutch equivalent to our CDC reported that 9 percent of all Covid cases recorded in the Netherlands were among fully vaccinated individuals, and 14 percent of the cases involved people who were partially vaccinated. Note, too, that the fully vaccinated can still transmit the Delta variant without knowing it, if they are asymptomatic, increasing risks to the unvaccinated.
Again, the main vaccines here in the U.S. remain effective against severe Covid, thank goodness. But I have also read of people getting Covid when fully vaccinated who get sick enough to be out for a week, or who lose sense of smell and taste. “Mild” Covid is still no picnic.
All of this leads me to be more cautious, once again. So frustrating, just as we were all just beginning to feel relieved this summer. But I’m back to wearing a mask in stores and avoiding indoor restaurant seating. If we make it to a baseball game or other crowded outdoor venue, I’ll be wearing a mask in the stadium, because there will be no way to socially distance from other fans. No airplane trips in my immediate future. If, as is now being discussed, those of us 65 and older are advised to get a booster shot—effectively a third dose of Moderna, for me—I will be first in line.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together. I need to protect myself, my family and friends, and strangers, too. Stay safe out there.
Image: Donald Giannatti