The Long-lasting Impacts of the Delta Variant

By Gerard Fiorenza



Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus particle envelope proteins immunolabeled with Rabbit HCoV-EMC/2012. Image from Flickr.com

In regards to our current predicament concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, we certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. The original coronavirus strain, also known as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) has developed into multiple strains due to a mutation in the virus’s genetic structure. Principle among these is what health officials within the medical community refer to as the Delta variant (B.1.617.2). Originating in India, the variant rapidly spread across the globe, reaching as far as the United Kingdom, eventually reaching North America to become the most prevalent strain in the United States.


Since then, it has proven significantly infectious, as the CDC claims that it is two times more contagious than previous strains. According to some of the recent data from two separate studies done in both Canada and Scotland, infection via the Delta variant leads to more hospitalizations as opposed to patients infected with other variants, making it potentially much more severe. The biggest concern for health officials currently seems to be directed toward getting as many Americans vaccinated as possible. They worry that the unvaccinated are not only most at risk of contracting the Delta variant, but spreading it as well. While the current Covid-19 vaccines are considered to be highly effective (especially against the Delta variant), they aren’t 100 percent effective, and breakthrough infections have occurred amongst vaccinated individuals. This has led health officials to emphasize becoming vaccinated and maintaining social distancing regulations as best as possible while government mandated restrictions slowly begin to lift throughout the United States.


Despite this, the efforts of consultant epidemiologist Jamie Lopez Bernal and his team have given us some much-needed hope. The team utilized a test-negative case control assessment in an attempt to determine the effectiveness of vaccination against symptomatic disease which was caused by the Delta variant. More than one-third of the observed participants in each variant population were aged 16-29 at the time of their sequencing. Lopez Bernal and his colleagues tested their subjects with two doses of two separate vaccinations. Two separate pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies provided the vaccinations, BioNTech’s BNT162b2 (the Pfizer Vaccine) and Oxford -AstraZeneca’s ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. However, the team noticed that there were a number of obstacles that were prevalent in the midst of the trial, some of which included their observational nature and lower specificity and sensitivity of relied-upon PCR testing results. Despite this, the team determined that there were “high levels of vaccine effectiveness” when using two-dose vaccinations against the symptomatic Covid-19 caused by the Delta Variant. In their findings, they said, “Our finding of reduced effectiveness after the first dose would support efforts to maximize vaccine uptake with two doses among vulnerable groups in the context of circulation of the delta variant.”


As trial doses are tested, government social distancing restrictions and mask mandates are lifted, and new genetic mutations birth new strains, one could only wonder when the pandemic will fade into obscurity. Unfortunately, it seems that Covid-19 will stay dormant in our world for a while. Apparently, only 15 percent of the world has been vaccinated. Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant said, “I think we’re closer to the beginning than we are to the end, and that’s not because the variant that we’re looking at right now (the Delta variant) is going to last that long.”


Personally, I think another interesting take on the issue is that Covid-19 may become endemic, and always persist with us, though due to humanity’s advantage of rapidly advancing medical science day by day, hopefully, one day it will just become another part of history.

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