The Delta Variant
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was originally detected in India and has since spread worldwide to 92 countries. This strain is more contagious than others and appears to be the fastest and strongest strain of coronavirus. Additionally, it may trigger more serious illnesses in individuals than other variants do.
Currently, the Delta variant makes up between 6-10% of the cases in the US. The World Health Organization (WHO) states the Delta variant is becoming the dominant strain in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that the Delta variant will become the dominant strain in the U.S. by August. The Delta variant makes up at least 60% of new cases in the United Kingdom.
The good news is that patients who are fully vaccinated do appear to have some protection against this variant. According to the CDC, current information suggests that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States offer protection against most variants. However, they also describe that some variants might cause illness in some people after they are fully vaccinated. There is still more research to do regarding all aspects of this issue. We encourage everyone to get their vaccines, if not yet fully immunized.
Updates Regarding J&J Vaccination
On April 13, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued reports of adverse reactions to the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine and its recommendation to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Based on the federal government’s recommendation and out of an abundance of caution, the Maryland Department of Health directed all Maryland COVID-19 vaccine providers to pause the administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine were administered in the U.S. CDC and FDA reviewed data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. In these cases, a type of blood clot called “cerebral venous sinus thrombosis” was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets. All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered.
On April 23, 2021, CDC and FDA recommended that use of J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine resume in the United States. A review of all available data at this time showed that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks for those recommended to receive it. However, women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination, and that other COVID-19 vaccines are available where this risk has not been seen.
Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.
Antibody Testing After Vaccination
Antibody testing is not currently recommended to assess immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following COVID-19 vaccination because the clinical usefulness of routine testing after immunization has not been established. Antibody tests currently are not regarded as an assessment of immune response in vaccinated people. Additionally, antibody testing does not evaluate the cellular immune response, which may also play a role in vaccine-mediated protection. If antibody testing were performed following vaccination, additional doses of the same or different COVID-19 vaccines are NOT recommended based on antibody test results at this time. If antibody testing were done after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, the vaccination series should be completed regardless of the antibody test result.
Maryland COVID Update
According to Governor Hogan this week, fewer than 1% of Maryland’s COVID-19 tests in the past week have come back positive. Montgomery County was far below the average, recording a rate of 0.45% positivity. Overall, the case rates in Maryland are the second-lowest in the country. D.C. and Virginia have also reported recent low positivity rates.
Your partners in health,
Bethesda Medical Associates