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COVID-19 Update: Delta variant and booster shots

Dr. Conley

By Dr. Conley​

As our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 increases, the ways in which we combat this dangerous virus will continue to evolve. Currently, the delta variant is believed to be causing an increase in COVID-19 cases around the world and leading to questions about the severity of the new variant and the need for booster shots to help combat it.
Let’s dive into some of those questions.

What are the COVID-19 booster shots?

While several companies are currently researching new formulas to combat new variants, the COVID-19 booster shots are the exact same formulas as the original two-dose Modern and Pfizer vaccines and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Do you need a booster shot?

At this time, booster shots are not recommended for the general population. They are only recommended for those who are severely immunocompromised (i.e. undergoing active cancer treatment or on medications to prevent organ transplant rejection).
There is speculation that booster shots may eventually be recommended for the general population 6-8 months after completion of the series.
According to the CDC, a booster shot is another dose of a vaccine that is given to someone who built enough protection after their initial vaccination, but that protection has decreased over time. This is called “waning immunity.”

What does it mean that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine?

While the three vaccines available in the U.S. had already met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for emergency use authorization, the Pfizer vaccine is now the first fully FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. That means the public can be very confident that the Pfizer vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.
Read more information about the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

How long does protection from a COVID-19 vaccine last?

At this time we don’t know how long the COVID-19 vaccine protection will last. Given that a booster shot is likely to be recommended at 6-8 months after completion of the initial series, there is some concern that protection wanes around that length of time.

Have any side effects come out regarding the vaccines?

Yes. There are reports of myocarditis, an inflammatory heart condition, in younger men who have received the mRNA-based vaccines and reports of blood clots, mostly in women, who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In addition to these more serious side effects, which are rare, most people experience some fatigue, low-grade fever, pain at the injection site or general body aches for 1-2 days following vaccination.

Will the vaccine protect me against the new delta variant?

Yes and no. It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccines are not a cure. The currently available vaccines are based on the spike protein of the original virus which has now mutated into the delta variant. The vaccines are designed to decrease your chances of contracting COVID-19. So you may still get the delta variant even if you’ve been vaccinated. However, your symptoms will likely be less severe.

Why is the new delta variant so dangerous?

The data is actually conflicting on if the delta variant is more dangerous than the original strain. What we know for certain is that the delta variant is more contagious. However, many studies show that the variant is actually less dangerous or deadly than the original virus.
Historically, as viruses mutate they become more virulent or contagious but less dangerous and deadly. This is still being investigated at this time.

What ages can get the vaccine?

Anyone over the age of 12 is eligible for the vaccines in the United States.
For more information, you can read our original blog post about the COVID-19 vaccines or visit CDC.gov for the latest updates.