Recently, there has been a growing unease regarding COVID-19 variants and what actions, if any, individuals ought to take in response to these variants. You have likely heard many of the different names of COVID-19 variants, especially in the media, and perhaps you’ve been curious about whether there is any real cause for concern. In this short article, we hope to educate you about these variants so that you can make informed decisions to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community against the spread of the coronavirus disease and its variants.
What Are Variants?
The term ‘variant’ is a simplified word to describe what occurs when an original virus shifts and changes into different strains. So when you hear people speaking about COVID variants, what this refers to are the distinct mutations of the original virus that began the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2. The process of mutation is not at all unheard of when it comes to viruses; in fact, it is to be expected. All viruses change, although they do not all change at the same rate, and some, such as the COVID virus, change much more rapidly than others.
With all viruses, variants can sometimes cause the original virus to become weakened, and that particular strain may eventually die off. On the other hand, mutations of viruses can also create stronger and stronger strains, which may become less resistant to the body’s immune response, or may change the manner and rate in which the virus is transmitted.
The Delta Variant
Researchers have been tracking and documenting several COVID variants throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, however, there is one COVID variant that has been receiving a lot of attention recently. This particular strain is known as the “Delta” variant, and has raised concerns after observing just how contagious it is. The Delta variant is transmitting at a much more rapid rate than we have seen with other strains of COVID, and many researchers and experts are urging communities to become vaccinated in order to limit the spread.
How to Protect Yourself
Each time a new person is infected with the virus, it has a chance to evolve and mutate. But the good news is, if you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you are likely going to be protected against most variants. While the vaccines will not automatically adjust to the virus as it changes, they also will not be entirely ineffective. In fact, the approved COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at protecting people from the worst outcomes, including hospitalization and death, even with the current COVID-19 variants. In addition, recent research has shown that nearly all deaths related to COVID-19 are now reported in people who are unvaccinated
Protecting Our Community
Even as our lives are starting to return to a sense of normalcy and many restrictions are being lifted in our community, we urge you to consider getting your COVID vaccination if you have not already done so. It is imperative that we continue to come together as a community, in order to ensure that as many people are vaccinated as possible. And this is why Island Hospital is joining with experts and researchers in the medical community to urge individuals to become vaccinated. Not only will greater vaccination rates prevent the spread of COVID-19, but will ultimately minimize the spread of more variants as well.
If you are not yet vaccinated for COVID-19, we highly encourage you to do so as soon as possible. To find a vaccination location, please visit the Washington State Department of Health, or call the Skagit County Public Health Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500. Island Hospital will also have vaccines available in our primary care clinics.
For More Information:
If you’d like to find current information about the COVID-19 variants, we recommend the following online links that discuss variants:
Dr. Jason Hogge has over 30 years of medical experience and is a trusted family medicine and obstetric provider at Anacortes Family Medicine and is The Walk-In Clinic Medical Director at Island Hospital. Furthermore, Dr. Hogge remains at the forefront of innovation and medical breakthroughs as the Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.