Protect yourself against the Delta variant: Get the COVID vaccine
Been waiting to get a COVID-19 vaccine? You now have one more motivator to get the shot: The Delta variant. The new COVID variant is proving far more contagious than its predecessors, prompting a new wave of infections in Florida and nationwide.
Roughly two weeks after the Fourth of July weekend, Baycare Health System, serving West Central Florida, is seeing the same spike in new COVID patients as the rest of the country: A doubling of COVID patients at the system’s 14 acute care hospitals, ambulatory services and BayCare Medical Group, its physician practice.
But there is a way to protect yourself and your family: Get vaccinated if you can.
While the new surge in cases is increasing the numbers of so-called “breakthrough” infections for those who are vaccinated, the overwhelming evidence is that the COVID vaccines are doing what scientists had hoped: Vaccinated patients are protected from developing a severe case of COVID and all its complications, including death.
“The vaccines significantly reduce your risk of getting COVID but also protect you from potentially devastating consequences from COVID,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, chief medical officer for BayCare Health System. “Getting vaccinated really is the best thing you can do to protect yourself but also your family and those you love who may not be able to get the vaccine due to age or a medical reason.”
The Delta variant is believed to be about 50 percent more contagious than its predecessors. The strain has mutations on the spike protein that have made it easier to infect human cells. The Delta variant is now believed to be the dominant strain accounting for new cases.
Public health experts believe each person infected with the Delta variant is infecting three or four people, compared to the one or two people seen in the earlier strains.
The result is a surge in new infections and one that is hitting people under 50 years old, who have been less likely to obtain a COVID vaccine than other age groups.
Those patients now sick enough to be hospitalized for COVID are overwhelmingly unvaccinated and are also younger, Dr. Anand said. Vaccinated patients now hospitalized with COVID are individuals who are otherwise medically vulnerable and more susceptible to complications from the virus, he said.
“The vaccines really are your best protection,” Dr. Anand said. “Get one if you can.”
Other practices adopted earlier in the pandemic also remain relevant: good hand hygiene and when in indoor settings, wearing masks and social distancing. “The vaccines have given us a new line of defense against this virus, but we need to continue to deploy those safe practices we’ve learned over the past year,” Dr. Anand said.
For more information about COVID, including vaccinations, visit BayCare.org/coronavirus.