Do COVID Vaccines Protect Against the Delta Variant Spreading in Missouri? Kind Of.

Eric Sentell
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on UnsplashPhoto by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Do COVID Vaccines protect against the Delta Variant?

The COVID vaccines were supposed to end the pandemic and return life to normal. Instead, the United States seems to be entering a fourth wave of COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

When I received my Moderna vaccine in Jan. 2021, the nurse advised me to continue wearing my mask and socially distancing because, as she said, "We don't know what the variants are going to do."

Then, we were aware of a few variant strains of COVID, but we didn't know if any would be more infectious or deadly. We didn't know how effective the vaccines would be against the emerging variants.

The Delta variant of COVID is spreading like wildfire, especially in Missouri, and will likely become the dominant strain of COVID.

The Delta variant is far more infectious, even for vaccinated people. But the vaccines remain effective at reducing the severity of COVID and the chance of hospitalization and death.

The following chart shows the relationship between vaccination rates and COVID cases in Missouri counties. The lower a county's vaccination rate, the higher its COVID case rate.
Chart: Emily Barone Source: Missouri DHSS (cases) and CDC (vax rate)Chart: Emily Barone Source: Missouri DHSS (cases) and CDC (vax rate); Time Magazine

Clearly, vaccines make a positive impact. We're in the midst of a "natural experiment," with some areas boasting high vaccination rates and other areas lagging far behind. The experiment's early results show that vaccines make a huge difference.

The Delta variant, however, throws a wrench into things. When Delta shows up in an area, COVID cases quickly increase even in areas with higher vaccination rates.

The chart below shows how the arrival of the Delta variant leads to a surge in COVID cases.
Chart: Emily Barone Source: TIME analysis of data from University of Missouri and DHSSChart: Emily Barone Source: TIME analysis of data from University of Missouri and DHSS; Time Magazi

So, we can't let our guard down.

The unvaccinated need to get vaccinated ASAP.

Everyone needs to continue masking.

Everyone needs to continue socially distancing as much as possible.

Getting Vaccinated Against COVID Still Makes Sense

A COVID vaccine may not keep you from getting sick with the Delta variant or eliminate the need for masking, but a vaccine will reduce the likelihood of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

A few years ago, I received the regular flu vaccine at my doctor's office. The flu vaccine must change every year because the flu mutates every year. That year, the flu vaccine was only about 30% effective at preventing illness, but my doctor said, "That's not a reason to not get it!"

Any protection against infection is better than zero protection.

Any reduction of an illness's severity is better than no reduction.

Any defense against dying from a disease is better than no defense.

Get vaccinated to protect yourself against serious illness and possible death. Wear a mask to protect yourself and others from infection.

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