The Delta variant became the most contagious COVID-19 strain, causing outbreaks around the globe – even in places where the virus had previously been under control. As we knew from the beginning of the pandemic, virus mutations are possible, and we are now faced with the Delta Variant causing a lot of parents to wonder if they need to reimplement all of the protective strategies from last the last school year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that they’ve had four notable variants so far, named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, starting with Alpha in December 2020 and progressing through Delta, which arrived March 2021 this year. Fortunately, they’ve also determined that “currently authorized vaccines work on the circulating variants,” however they continue to study each. (CDC, 2021)
What Do We Know About The Delta Variant?
The Delta variant was first identified in India during December 2020 and led to major outbreaks in the country and is now reported in 104 countries, according to a CDC tracker. The Delta variant has become the dominant form of the coronavirus in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, India, and other countries.
Delta Variant Symptoms
The symptoms are quite like those seen with the original COVID-19 strain and other variants, including a persistent cough, headache, high fever, and sore throat.
At the same time, COVID-19 patients in the United States have reported that some symptoms are slightly different for Delta in which cough and loss of smell are less common and headache, sore throat, stuffy nose, and fever seem to be more frequent.
Is the Delta Variant More Deadly and Serious?
Researchers are still tracking the data to determine how deadly it is but based on hospitalizations so far in countries, the Delta variant does seem to be more likely to lead to hospitalization and death, particularly among unvaccinated people.
Delta Variant, Effects on Unvaccinated People
People who haven’t been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are very high at risk. In the United States, communities with low vaccination rates have seen a jump in cases, such as Missouri, Arkansas, and outbreaks were declared in mountain states, such as Wyoming.
Children and younger adults who haven’t been vaccinated are 3 times more likely to become infected with the Delta variant.
Delta Variant, Effects on Vaccinated People
Scientists are still investigating how the Delta variant can cause breakthrough cases of infections among people who are fully vaccinated, although so far, they seem to be rare.
In a preliminary analysis, two doses of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine appeared to be about 88% effective against disease and 96% effective against hospitalization with this Delta variant and now, vaccine makers are testing booster shots to find out if they can better protect against the Delta variant and other variants that are expected to emerge in the coming months. Pfizer has already announced that they will seek FDA authorization for a booster dose in August, according to CNN. (CNN News, 2021)
How Does the Delta Variant Impact Kids?
So far, the studies have shown unvaccinated adults and children are more likely to have a serious illness from the Delta variant. One reassuring fact is that reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics show that even though the Delta variant is circulating, cases in children are still down compared to other countries. (Frost, 2021)
The potential symptoms that parents should watch out for are different than for the original strain of COVID-19 is a bad and long-lasting symptoms in younger populations.
Steps That Parents Can Consider to Protect Children
There are a few recommended steps that physicians say will limit your child’s chances of contracting the Delta variant, and COVID-19 in totality.
Weight the Risk of Vaccines
While children under 12 still don’t have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, their parents do, and their choice to get vaccinated can protect them. As per a recent study, for every 20% increase in the rate of vaccination among adults, the risk of infection in children is reduced by 50%.
Parents’ vaccines have been shown to decrease them becoming “carriers,” which identifies that they are less likely to transmit the virus to others including their children. Carriers are the people who may harbor the virus without having symptoms—but they can transmit the virus to others making them sick.
Slow Down Your “Reopening” Plans
While everyone is excited to fully reopen all aspects of society, from concerts to beach trips to weddings, we highly recommend parents do so slowly.
We must balance the need of “being normal” and supporting our kids’ mental and social health needs with the risk of opening up carelessly with the many unknowns that the Delta variant might bring.
So, consider moving get-togethers outside with a small group whenever possible. We hope this idea will prevent future lockdowns from reoccurring because the pandemic is not over yet, and the back-and-forth of swinging from blissful freedom back to crushing lockdowns will continue if we don’t change how we intermingle with others.
Rethink Before Traveling
While everyone has been itching to travel for over a year, it might be worth reconsidering certain details of your travel plans that increase exposure to the virus.
One can consider specific ways to travel while reducing the risk of contracting the Delta variant:
- Choose direct airplane flights if possible
- Be aware that airports aren’t the most conducive to social distancing and might be tricky while traveling with unvaccinated family members
- Avoid taking a cruise holiday with kids
- Train travel may be okay if you can maintain social distancing
- Wash your hands frequently and wear masks while traveling
Just as some parents felt panicky at the beginning of the last school year, new strains may bring up these feelings again. The key here is not to worry, but we recommend parents and caregivers stay calm and updated.
It’s Not Too Late to Vaccinate
So, if you decide to get vaccinated now, you’ll be just in time for the start of the school year. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses, with a three or four-week wait in between. (Johnson & Johnson is a single dose.) After your child’s final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, it takes another two weeks for their body to build up full immunity. Until your child is old enough to get their own COVID-19 vaccine, get vaccinated, continue wearing a mask, handwashing and social distancing are their best protections against the Delta variant.
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Fox, Maggie. “Pfizer Says It’s Time for a Covid Booster; FDA and CDC Say Not so Fast.” CNN, Cable News Network, 9 July 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/07/08/health/pfizer-waning-immunity-bn/index.html
“About Variants of the Virus That Causes COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2021, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html
Frost, Alexandra. “How Does the Delta Variant Affect Kids?” Verywell Family, 1 July 2021, www.verywellfamily.com/how-does-the-delta-variant-affect-kids-5191105.