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The Delta Variant: Everything Parents Need to Know About the COVID Mutation


Aug. 11, 2021 Fatherly

Add this to the fact that kids under 12 are still unable to get the COVID vaccine and, yes, you have our attention.

But is it time to panic? In a word, no. While it is more transmissible, vaccines protect against the variant, and it does not seem to have changed the way COVID impacts children — which is to say, usually mildly. That’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get into it. Here’s everything parents need to know about the Delta variant. 

What is the Delta variant?

Delta is the coronavirus variant that was first identified in India, where it wreaked havoc before spreading to the UK and the rest of the world. It’s contributing to rising COVID rates in the U.S., where it’s now the cause of the vast majority of new cases.

Delta is driving an exponential increase in cases in the U.S., particularly in undervaccinated areas. In Florida in late July, more people were hospitalized with COVID than they were at at any other point in the pandemic, according to the COVID Data Dispatch. In late July, hospitalizations in Texas were up 300 percent compared to late June. But the impact of Delta is much less severe in well-vaccinated areas.

Does the Delta variant spread faster or differently?

The Delta variant is highly contagious. Some experts think that it’s twice as transmissible as the coronavirus that started the pandemic and 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. It’s likely the most transmissible variant yet. When indoors and without a mask, it only takes a second for one person to infect another with Delta, experts say. Note that being outdoors is much safer, though it’s unclear at this point how much when it comes to this variant. Leaked CDC documents recently revealed that Delta is as contagious as the chickenpox, although outside experts have been skeptical about this comparison.

What does this mean in real-world terms? Here’s one (terrifying) example: A CCTV camera in Australia documented two people passing each other briefly in a mall. One of the people infected the other despite only sharing airspace for a few seconds, genetic analysis confirmed. This situation is probably unusual, but it highlights just how transmissible Delta can be.

Is the Delta variant deadlier?

There’s not enough evidence yet to know whether the Delta variant kills more people. However, a large study in Scotland found that Delta leads to hospitalization at twice the rate of the Alpha variant. This suggests that it may cause more severe disease, but researchers can’t be certain yet.

However, some experts are ready to make the call. “The evidence seems to be tipping that [Delta’s] certainly causing more severe illness in children, due to the numbers of kids being hospitalized, more so than we’d ever seen previously during the pandemic,” Stanley Spinner, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care, told Fatherly.

But even if Delta turns out not to be more deadly, it can still cause issues because it will get more people sick, possibly leading to overcrowded hospitals, which can lead to more deaths.

Do the COVID vaccines stop Delta?

Vaccinated adults are becoming more and more concerned about breakthrough infections as the Delta variant spreads. But the available evidence supports that the vaccines are effective at stopping infection and severe disease from Delta, but not as effective as they were at protecting against other coronavirus variants. 

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