The COVID-19 vaccines are working.
The Delta variant increases the urgency of vaccination.
Vaccines Are Working
The US has fully vaccinated more than 160 million people, or half the population, in the past 7 months. Around 7 in 10 adults have gotten at least one shot, including nearly 9 in 10 adults 65 and older.1 Far fewer people are getting infected with COVID-19, getting hospitalized, or dying of the virus. Those people are by and large unvaccinated.2 People who are fully vaccinated have been able to visit family and friends and go back to the moments they have missed with less fear of getting sick or getting other people sick.
New Delta Variant Means Unvaccinated People Are More Likely to Get COVID-19
Unfortunately, our cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 are going back up again. This is largely due to the Delta variant.3 Delta is a new strain of COVID-19 that spreads faster than the original virus. One study found that people infected with the Delta variant have 1000 times as much virus in their system when they test positive, which makes it easier for them to spread the virus to other people. 4 It may be more deadly than the original virus. The Delta variant is now 80% of new COVID-19 infections in the US. It is in all 50 states. States and communities with lower vaccination rates are seeing the fastest increase in COVID-19. Recent data has found that 99.5% of deaths from COVID-19 are now happening to people who have not gotten vaccinated.5 Nearly every case is preventable with vaccines.
We Have to Race the Delta Variant to Vaccinate People Before They Get Infected
Delta is spreading fast and is likely to reach every community. Many communities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic are at higher risk due to low vaccination rates. The faster people get fully vaccinated, the fewer people get infected, get sick, get long COVID, die from COVID-19, or spread it to other people.
What does Delta mean for you and your family?
Q: What does the Delta variant mean for people who are vaccinated?
A: Fully vaccinated people are largely protected against the Delta variant.
The three vaccines available in the U.S. all work well against the Delta variant. You do need both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be protected.6-7 If you are fully vaccinated:
- You are much less likely to get infected with COVID-19. That means you are also much less likely to infect other people.
- Even if you do get COVID-19, you are much less likely to get very sick or die. Recent CDC data show 97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are among unvaccinated individuals.8 99.5% of deaths are happening to unvaccinated people, too.9
Q: What about all these reports of vaccinated people getting COVID-19 again?
A: The vaccines are still working well, but breakthrough cases are expected.
We are seeing breakthrough cases in people who have been vaccinated, but the risk is still much much lower than if you were unvaccinated.10 Your risk goes up a bit if your community has high rates of COVID-19 cases from the Delta variant. An important way to protect yourself from COVID-19, in addition to being vaccinated, is to make sure people in your community are vaccinated too.
Q: With Delta spreading, do I need to wear a mask?
A: Generally, yes. You should wear a mask indoors when not at home.
It is up to all of us to protect ourselves, our families, and people in our communities as Delta spreads. Masks can provide additional protection from getting infected or infecting other people, even if you are vaccinated. If you live in an area with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19 (most of the country as of July 27), you should wear a mask when indoors anywhere but in your home. Wearing a mask is especially important if you are or you live with someone who is elderly, have medical conditions including being immunocompromised, or are too young for the vaccines.
Q: What does Delta mean for people who are unvaccinated?
A: Unvaccinated people are at increased risk and should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The Delta variant is quickly spreading among people who are unvaccinated. Hospitals are reporting that people who are very sick are younger than they were in previous surges.11 Even children are ending up in the ICU.12 Many public health experts believe that nearly everyone who is unvaccinated will get infected with the Delta variant. Even though most young healthy people do fine with COVID-19, every infection carries a risk. Many young, healthy people have been hospitalized, developed long-term COVID-19 symptoms, or passed COVID-19 to people they love or to someone vulnerable in the community. 1 in 10 people who get even mild COVID are ending up with long-term health problems like chest pain, shortness of breath, and extreme fatigue.13 Many of them were young and healthy before they had COVID-19. The safest option is to get vaccinated.
Q: What does the Delta variant mean for kids who are too young to get vaccines?
A: Kids need adults and teens to get vaccinated to protect them.
Kids are much less likely than adults to get very sick or die from COVID-19. However, since the pandemic started, millions of kids have gotten infected with COVID-19, a disproportionate number from Black, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.14 Tens of thousands have been hospitalized. And hundreds have died. And we know from previous waves that the impacts are felt most heavily among Black, Latino, and other children of color. Many children who were completely healthy have also developed long-lasting symptoms known as long COVID – including ongoing chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and extreme fatigue.15 The best way to protect unvaccinated children is to mask, socially distance, and vaccinate the adults and older children in their community.
Q: How will Delta impact schools?
A: To open schools and keep them open for in-person learning, we need to increase vaccinations.
Opening schools for in-person learning is a priority for mental health, well-being, and academic and social-emotional learning. School is also important for parents to be able to go to work. Many children and communities have fallen farther behind without in-person school.
We know that public health measures in schools have been very effective against the spread of previous strains of COVID-19.16 However, we do not yet know how well those defenses work against the Delta variant.
Because of the Delta variant, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that everyone should wear masks in school even if you are vaccinated.17 Additionally, the best way to protect unvaccinated kids is to increase vaccination rates in the community.
Q: Does the Delta variant mean we will need booster shots?
A: The data does not show a need for boosters at this time, even with the Delta variant.
As of July 13, 2021, the CDC and FDA are not recommending boosters.18 They are monitoring closely to see whether a larger portion of vaccinated people are getting hospitalized or dying of COVID-19. So far, the vaccines’ effectiveness against serious illness and death is holding, even against the Delta variant.
Q: What’s the bottom line?
A: Get vaccinated and help others in your community get vaccinated too.
Made to Save works to support communities in getting access to shots and access to the information they need to make informed decisions about the vaccines for themselves and their families. Join us: madetosave.org.
The information presented here has been aggregated from the CDC and other trusted medical resources and is not medical advice. If you have additional questions we encourage you to speak to a medical provider. This information is accurate as of July 22, 2021.
1 CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States”
2 US News and World Reports: “CDC Head: COVID-19 Becoming ‘Pandemic of the Unvaccinated’”
3 NYTimes: “The Delta variant makes up an estimated 83 percent of U.S. cases, the C.D.C. director says”
4 Nature: “How the Delta variant achieves its ultrafast spread”
5 “07/16/21: Press Briefing by the White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials”
6 Washington Post: “New study on delta variant reveals importance of receiving both vaccine shots, highlights challenges posed by mutations”
7 J&J: “Positive New Data for Johnson & Johnson Single-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine on Activity Against Delta Variant and Long-lasting Durability of Response”
8 NPR: “97% Of People Entering Hospitals For COVID-19 Are Unvaccinated”
9 “07/16/21: Press Briefing by the White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials”
10 ABC News: “Statistics show the stark risks of not getting vaccinated against COVID-19”
11 NBC News: “Young, unvaccinated people are being hospitalized with Covid-19 as delta variant spreads, officials warn”
12 ABC News: “Mississippi health officials warn about delta ‘surge’ as 7 children in ICU due to COVID-19”
13 JAMA: “Symptoms and Functional Impairment Assessed 8 Months After Mild COVID-19 Among Health Care Workers”
14 CDC: “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Incidence by Age, Sex, and Period Among Persons Aged <25 Years — 16 U.S. Jurisdictions, January 1–December 31, 2020”
15 Nature: “Long COVID and kids: scientists race to find answers”
16 REACH: “The Effects of School Reopenings on COVID-19 Hospitalizations”
17 AAP: “COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools”
18 “ Joint CDC and FDA Statement on Vaccine Boosters”