Solutions: Q&A: What you need to know about the delta variant – and vaccines

The highly transmissible delta variant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has described the delta variant as a very different virus than the one that took hold last year, capable of generating infections even among vaccinated people, though those are likely to be far less severe.

The good news, Walensky has said, is that all three coronavirus vaccines available in the United States offer strong protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Preliminary data from several states over the past several months suggests that 99.5 percent of COVID-related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people, she has said.

Q: How effective are the vaccines against the variant?

A. Real-world data suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (which has been granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration for people 16 and older) and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines (which are authorized for emergency use) offer strong protection against severe disease and death from the delta variant, though they appear to offer less protection against minor to moderate infections.

Q: What else can people do to protect themselves?

A: Health experts say that people who are not yet vaccinated should continue to wear masks and make plans to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

Q: What about the risk to children, and how can parents protect them?

A: Because delta is more contagious than earlier variants, children are at somewhat greater risk of infection. Those who are 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and federal health officials recommend that families inoculate eligible children to provide them greater protection.

The bottom line is that people need to take measures to protect themselves and their loved ones against the delta variant, experts said.

“If you haven’t had COVID, you’re not vaccinated and you’re not wearing a mask, you’re basically asking for delta trouble,” said Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine and executive vice president at Scripps Research.

“It’ll find you.”

This story was written by Lindsey Bever, Joel Achenbach, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum of The Washington Post.