Speaker 1: As the world lives through the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, there's a new Battlefront. That's opened up in our fight against COVID 19. The Delta variant Delta is raising a lot of questions. Is it more deadly? Will booster shots protect us. And after more than a year of living with the coronavirus, why does it feel like we're back at square one, let's break it down. So what is Delta? [00:00:30] Well, these new virus variants are essentially mutations. When the virus spreads from person to person, it makes copies of itself. But sometimes these copies include slight variations in their genome that make them better at infecting humans. According to Andy Peko professor of microbiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health, the more chances the virus has to mutate, the more likely it is that these dangerous variants will emerge. And with so many [00:01:00] people out there still UNS, the virus has plenty of chances to replicate
Speaker 2: When you have lots and lots of people getting infected and making lots and lots of virus, there's just more chance that the virus can mutate across its whole genome. And every once in a while, these random mutations give the virus what's called a fitness us advantage, meaning it allows the virus to do something a little bit better, which allows it to spread in the population, uh, [00:01:30] and become the dominant virus. Delta seems to be causing more disease across a number of age groups. Um, and it seems to be escaping some of the immunity that our vaccines are able to, uh, generate against it.
Speaker 1: So if the virus is changing, can our vaccines protect us from these new variants like Delta?
Speaker 2: When you look at the most important thing that vaccines do, and that's protect from severe disease and death vaccines [00:02:00] are still working against the Delta variant where most vaccines work is that once you get exposed to the virus, your immune response ramps up much, much faster than if you've never seen the virus before. So you can control the infection very, very rapidly. And this is where we think Delta is getting around some of the, in the, in vaccinated people, because it binds to cells faster, it replicates faster, [00:02:30] and therefore it may be able to really swamp your immune system initially, um, and therefore establish itself in vaccinated people, something that other variants couldn't do again, the good news is your immune response remembers and ramps up and eventually gets to a level where you can control the virus, but it may be that our vaccines work better against previous variants than they are working against Delta. Uh, in terms of preventing symptomatic disease, those [00:03:00] milder forms of disease,
Speaker 1: These emerging variants have brought up the question of booster shots. Us health officials are now recommending vaccine boosters for Americans. So will this give us a better chance of fighting off new strains of the coronavirus?
Speaker 2: What we know from clinical trials already is is that a booster shot will give you more immunity. It'll make your immunity stronger, and it'll also broaden your immunity, meaning that it'll be better at detecting and, and [00:03:30] in activating these variants that are circulating right now, and most likely ones that will be emerging, uh, in the next couple months, because we expect more re variants to emerge. The
Speaker 1: Other big question is who should be getting booster shots? Now Peko says there is a benefit for vulnerable and immunocompromised people, but that giving a booster to every person who's fully vaccinated in the us is not actually how we get out of this pandemic. We need to be thinking much bigger if
Speaker 2: [00:04:00] We're seeing an uptick in severe disease in the elderly, in those populations. I think a booster is absolutely warranted, but for the rest of the population, we've got good protection from infection already. Um, I think that we need to think about this more as a global pandemic and realize that anywhere that viruses replicating untethered is going to be a hotspot for generating variants. We've seen that this virus can, [00:04:30] it doesn't understand, doesn't know country borders. It doesn't understand continent, borders. All it knows is how to infect humans and how to spread from human to human. So any place we leave opportunities for this virus to grow puts us all at risk.
Speaker 1: The other issue with boosters in the United States. Well, they're going to people who already have some level of immunity, and there are large parts of the population that are still UN vaccinated to fight this virus and the new variants. We need [00:05:00] to increase immunity across the board. So if you live in the us, what does this news about boosters mean for you? Well, if you are vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna, then you'll be eligible for a booster eight months after your second shot. If you are vaccinated with J and J it's likely you'll be eligible for a booster, but you'll have to wait a little bit longer. The boosters need to be cleared by the F FDA and CDC, but most health officials say they're going to be part of our vaccine strategy going forward. The most important thing, though, [00:05:30] just like your first doses of the vaccine, the boosters will be free with no ID or insurance required. So what if you live outside the us and vaccine boosters, aren't part a picture for you right now? Well, Andy Peko says that a lot of the things we've been doing for the past year are still really effective, masking up maintaining social distancing, especially if you're inside or around people who may be UN vaccinated, it's all about decreasing your risk of being exposed.
Speaker 1: [00:06:00] So here's the key takeaway. Vaccines are our greatest weapon in this pandemic. Not only do they protect us individually, but as more of us get vaccinated, we give the virus fewer chances to mutate whether that's the Delta variant or whatever comes next.
Speaker 2: I think dealing with the pandemic and getting us back to, um, a normal economy really begins and ends with the vaccine. Uh, there's [00:06:30] a so much data out there about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, even against Delta variant, that I think everybody needs to incorporate vaccination into their plans to try to get back to normal. Um, companies should be utilizing vaccinations as an incentive to get people back into the office. Um, we should be using vaccination and getting, uh, people vaccinated to take part at indoor events. The fall is gonna be a time where we're really worried [00:07:00] about another wave of virus, because we're gonna be all moving indoors and putting the virus in conditions where it's easier for the virus to spread. So anything we can do right now to sort of push the vaccine and get people get vaccinated will be good.