Like it or not, the Delta variant has led to a new surge in COVID-19 cases across Orange County, California and the nation, and we can expect three more waves in the months ahead unless many more people get vaccinated, according to Dr. Susan S. Huang, UCI Health medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention.
“We’re in wave one due to unmasked social events earlier this summer,” says the UCI School of Medicine professor and infectious disease expert. A second wave will follow as students head back to classrooms with little or no distancing and no vaccines available for kids under age 12.
“In-person school is very important, but even with good masking practices, we are very likely to see periodic outbreaks, especially among unvaccinated children," Huang predicts.
"This second wave will be compounded with a third wave when the season changes to fall and especially to winter. COVID-19 is a seasonal virus and is expected to be five times more contagious in the winter than in the summer."
Unless behaviors change and vaccinations increase significantly, expect a fourth wave due to unmasked holiday gatherings and end of year celebrations.
Why get vaccinated?
Masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene can help slow the spread of the Delta variant, which is 50% more contagious than earlier strains of the virus. But the best way to effectively prevent further mutations and future surges is to get vaccinated, Huang says.
She offers seven compelling reasons to get vaccinated now:
- Vaccines are your only protection if you are exposed
Once the virus makes it into your body, it encounters protective antibodies generated by the vaccine plus an army of fighter cells that make you far less likely to develop COVID-19 disease.
- You are protecting yourself and others
Since the vaccine makes you one-third as likely than the unvaccinated to get sick in response to an exposure, you are protecting not only yourself but others, too. Millions of children under age 12 cannot be vaccinated and millions more adults have health conditions that might make their vaccinations less effective. We need as many “protectors” as we can get for our children and the immunocompromised. Every adult and teenager who gets vaccinated builds a wall of protection around the people they know and love.
- COVID-19 vaccines provide 90% to 97% protection from severe disease from all variants, including Delta
Not only are you one-third less likely to get sick from the Delta variant, but even if you do, vaccinated people generally experience symptoms similar to a cold or a mild flu-like illness. They are at extremely low risk for hospitalization or dying if they become a “breakthrough case."
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe
More than one billion doses of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines have been given worldwide, with only a few rare side effects detected. "Full approval by the FDA of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is an important milestone because it is a rigorous stamp of approval for the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine," Huang says. "Moderna filed for full approval three weeks after Pfizer, so we anticipate its approval shortly." This approval should provide the reassurance that some Americans were waiting for before getting vaccinated. Don’t be fooled by misinformation about vaccine side effects either. The U.S. Surgeon General’s office issued a statement to address this. Consult trusted sources like your doctor or healthcare provider. The UCI Health COVID-19 vaccine FAQ page is another trusted resource for up-to-date information.
- Colder weather is coming
Like most seasonal viruses, including the flu, COVID-19 flourishes during the colder months. As a winter virus, we can expect a five-fold level of contagiousness in the winter compared to what we are seeing this summer. That is why all who are eligible should get vaccinated now, especially those in high-risk communities. We can boost Orange County’s herd immunity to the 75% to 85% level needed to stop the spread of the Delta variant.
- Being vaccinated allows easier access to daily activities
While we recommend being judicious in your travel and social activities during this surge in COVID-19, when those activities are needed, many venues are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test. Many countries are also requiring it for travel. And more and more employers are announcing vaccine mandates for their workers. Having proof of vaccination is more convenient than having to get a negative test every time you want to do something.
- Vaccinations are free and easy to find
The supply of COVID-19 vaccines is strong and it’s available for free everywhere — a pop-up clinic, your doctor’s office, a local pharmacy or health department. Bring an ID and go with a parent or guardian if you’re under age 18.
With all these great reasons to get vaccinated, it's easy to find a vaccine location near you.