If novel coronavirus cases reported are a new strain, does this mean the COVID-19 vaccine is worthless or does it work as well on the new strain?

— Noozhawk reader John Jeffries

John Jeffries sent in this question because “the publishing of a new strain is, to say the least, concerning, but to an at-risk population it is even more important to try and give them some level of comfort with our reporting.”

Three vaccines are authorized in the United States to prevent COVID-19 — Pfizer-BioNTechModerna and Johnson & Johnson and they all protect against the novel coronavirus and variants of the virus, including the more-infectious Delta strain, according to public health and medical officials. 

“The COVID vaccine is right now more important than ever, specifically because of Delta,” said David Fisk, who works for both Cottage Hospital and Sansum Clinic in Infectious Disease. “One only needs to look to the horror that arose in India from what Delta does to a mostly unvaccinated population.

“For those who are unvaccinated right now, Delta is a very serious threat to their health,” he continued. 

The Delta variant emerged in India in late 2020, according to the CDC.

Fisk said evidence is suggesting that the vaccines are approaching 100% effectiveness in the prevention of death from COVID-19.  

“The vaccines are far from worthless and in fact, they’re lifesavers,” Fisk said. “Everyone who’s not vaccinated should be rushing to get vaccinated because Delta is here, and Delta is surging already, and it’s almost all in unvaccinated individuals.”

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective, even as the Delta variant of novel coronavirus circulates, Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said.

“Fully vaccinated persons have 95% protection from more serious illness and hospitalization,” Ansorg said.

Individuals are considered fully vaccinated at least two weeks after their final dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or after one dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of hospitalized adults ages 18 to 49 continues to climb and now accounts for more than 40% of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations, Ansorg said.

“Since April, these younger adults now account for more hospitalizations than people 65 years and older, likely reflecting lower vaccination rates in this age group compared with older adults,” Ansorg said.

“Locally, nearly every person needing hospitalization for COVID-19, of any variant type, has been an unvaccinated person.”

For the other forms of the virus — Alpha, Beta, Gamma — vaccines offer “excellent protection” against more severe illness, hospitalization and death, Ansorg said.

“So far, studies suggest that the current authorized vaccines work on the circulating variants,” according to the CDC’s website. “Scientists will continue to study these and other variants.”

Click here for the CDC’s information about variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Evidence suggests that it is potentially more transmissible than other variants,” the CDC said of the Delta variant.

Find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you on the county website, publichealthsbc.org/vaccine, or at myturn.ca.gov. Some facilities offer walk-ups as well as appointments.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.