My extremely competent and science-oriented physician, Dr. Alex Lickerman, has written post #14 in his continuing series about the coronavirus and the pandemic. It’s free, and you can read it by clicking on the screenshot below.
This one answers a number of questions that many of us have. I’ll give a precis of the answers at the end, but you need to read the whole thing. After all, immunized or not, it’s your health. I think you’ll find the answers reassuring. And what I like about this post, as with the others, is that the answers are completely driven by data. When the data are ambiguous or unclear, Alex lets us know.
Alex has volunteered to answer readers’ questions, so feel free to ask them in the comments section below.
Some of the questions asked and answered (or not answered if we don’t have data):
- Is the Delta variant of cornavirus more contagious than other strains of the virus.
- Does the Delta variant cause more severe disease than the other variants?
- How effective are the vaccines against the Delta variant?
- How much do we need to worry about “breakthrough infections? Here I’ll quote something Alex notes:
But here’s the bottom line: the absolute risk of becoming infected to which vaccinated people are being exposed in most situations in which they find themselves will be far less than 7.2 to 28.8 percent.
This does explain, however, why breakthrough infections with Delta can and do occur. But what we care about most—and what the vaccines were really designed to mitigate—isn’t the risk of catching COVID-19. It’s the risk of being hospitalized and dying from it (as well as the risk of developing long-COVID). Here, the CDC data tells the real story: as of this writing (at a time when, as mentioned above, the Delta variant is the dominant strain infecting people in the U.S.), of 164 million people fully vaccinated (with a mix of the mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine), 5,285 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 (which yields a risk of being hospitalized from severe COVID-19 if you’re immunized of 0.003 percent), and of those 1,191 died (which yields a risk of dying from COVID-19 if you’re immunized of 0.0007 percent). When you consider the risks most of us take every day without worrying about them at all—for example, over the course of a year, the odds of getting into a car accident are 3.7 percent on average and the odds of dying in a car accident are 0.3 percent, making the annual risk of dying from a car accident 0.01 percent, which is 14 times the risk of an immunized person dying from COVID-19—our inability to think statistically clearly has us afraid of the wrong things. (This goes for the decision to be vaccinated as well: our annual risk of dying from a car accident turns out also to be 14 times the risk of the most common serious adverse reaction to the vaccines—blood clots with the J&J vaccines—which occurs at the same rate as the rate of death from COVID-19 if you’re fully immunized, a rate of 0.0007 percent.)
- Does immunity conferred by the vaccines wane over time? If so, at what rate?
- Should we be looking to get “booster” (third) vaccinations?
- Can fully vaccinated people spread the variant? If so, should vaccinated people mask up?
- Is traveling safe now?
And I’ll give you a peek at the answers but, as I said, read the whole piece and then fire away with questions. A quote from the article:
CONCLUSION: It’s hard to know how to think about immunization, the Delta variant, and how we should behave in different circumstances to keep ourselves and those around us safe. We’re all seeing the science unfold in real time, revealing just how messy, uncertain, and difficult it is to figure out what’s really true. But, though it takes time, science ultimately gives us answers we can rely on. We can all argue about what policies make the most sense based on what the science shows, but it’s the science we should all use to help us guide our own behavior. And, as of this writing, the science says the following:
The Delta variant is more contagious than other variants.
The Delta variant may be more dangerous than other variants.
The vaccines are likely somewhat less effective in preventing infection with the Delta variant, but still offer an enormous amount of protection. Breakthrough infections are occurring, but they are overwhelmingly mild.
Vaccinated people probably can transmit the infection but almost certainly at a lower rate than unvaccinated people.
The vaccines remain unbelievably effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the Delta variant, so much so that vaccinated people can continue to live as they did before the onset of the pandemic, with the possible exception of wearing masks to prevent asymptomatic spread to vulnerable people in areas of high prevalence of disease.
A third booster shot for non-immunocompromised people doesn’t make sense at this point in the pandemic. Some people who are immunocompromised may want to consider a third shot.