By Nompilo Gwala

First detected in India in October 2020, the vicious Delta variant has spread to more than 100 countries and according to the CDC (US Center for Disease Control and Prevention), it appears to spread as easily as chickenpox. Here are your top four questions about the delta variant.

With some provinces in South Africa only just reaching their third wave peaks, more than 7.7 million have been vaccinated since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout kicked off in February 2021. With more and more people receiving their jabs, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding vaccine efficacy of both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines against the Delta variant.

Here are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Delta variant which has been driving South Africa’s deadly third wave:

  1. Does the Delta variant make people sicker than other variants?
    There is no evidence to say that the Delta variant will make you sicker. Symptoms of the Delta variant tend to be a little different than other strains but that does not mean the associated symptoms are more severe. Fever, headache, sore throat and runny nose are common, while a cough and loss of smell are not. The Delta variant has also been associated with severe symptoms including hearing impairment, severe gastrointestinal issues and blood clots leading to tissue death and gangrene.
    There is ongoing research to determine if the Delta variant is associated with hospitalization and death. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards Delta as “the fastest and fittest” variant so far.
  2. Will the Johnson & Johnson vaccine protect me against the Delta variant?
    Earlier in July the Johnson & Johnson Company announced that its data showed that the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine generated strong, persistent activity against the rapidly spreading Delta variant. The data showed that the durability of the immune response lasted at least eight months, the length of time evaluated to date.
    According to J&J laboratory tests, the vaccine performed better against the Delta variant then against the Beta strain. In a statement, President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Professor Glenda Gray assured South African’s that the J&J vaccine was effective against the Delta variant.
    “Data from the Sisonke Study conducted among healthcare workers is showing that the J&J vaccine is effective, and reduces your risk of severe disease, hospitalisation, and death,” said Gray.
  3. Will the Pfizer vaccine protect me against the Delta variant?
    The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots, which are administered 42 days apart in South Africa. A safety and efficacy trial showed that the Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective in preventing coronavirus in participants who had not been infected by the virus before vaccination.
    The United Kingdom Health Department found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of people developing coronavirus symptoms by 88%. The data also showed protection against coronavirus increases to 96% once you’ve received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
    Gray has also confirmed that a third dose of Pfizer won’t be necessary at this stage. This come after Dr Anthony Fauci -an infectious disease expert who serves as director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – said on Sunday that Americans who are immune compromised may end up needing COVID-19 vaccine booster shots as the United States deals with increasing cases from the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
  4. Can I catch COVID-19 twice?
    According to the CDC, cases of reinfection have been reported. A study of more than 20 000 healthcare workers in the UK found that people who catch and recover from COVID-19 are likely to be immune for several months. The study, published on the 15 January, showed that immune responses from past infection reduce the risk of catching the virus again by 83%. This means that reinfections have occurred but are rare. The study suggests that reinfection occurred in fewer than 1% of about 6600 participants who had already been infected.
    Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick. The vaccine works with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the coronavirus if you are exposed to it. As the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through its vaccination program, getting vaccinated is a personal choice and a powerful step in taking charge of your health. – Health-e News

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