As the Delta variant spreads, Virginians ask ‘Can I get an extra COVID shot?’

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Delta variant of COVID-19 is picking up steam in Virginia and some folks are asking if it’s okay to get an extra COVID shot.

As of Wednesday, July 7, the Commonwealth now has 67 state-lab confirmed cases of the variant. That’s about 20 more than just about a week ago, according to Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine coordinator. Avula says those numbers are likely much, much higher because not all cases are getting sequenced at the state lab.

The vaccine coordinator said this week marks the first week where the Delta variant has outpaced any of the other variants. Experts say it’s also 40 to 60 percent more contagious than any of the other COVID strains.

Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and health agencies have said that the three vaccines are very effective against Delta. However, no vaccine is perfect.

Johnson & Johnson originally reported being less effective than the other two vaccines and anxiety over Delta is growing. Virginians are asking “what if I want one more shot?”

Our sister station WRIC asked if people who got the J&J vaccine should be more concerned than folks with mRNA vaccines.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I mean it’s something to follow for sure.”

After studying Delta’s impact on its vaccine, J&J says its vaccine is just as effective in preventing severe illness compared to when the vaccine first came out.

On July 1, J&J said its vaccine is “85% effective against severe or critical disease and demonstrated protection against hospitalization and death.”

“The vaccine was consistently effective across all regions studied globally, including in South Africa and Brazil, where there was a high prevalence of rapidly emerging Beta and Zeta (P.2) variants during the study period,” J&J wrote in a news release this month.

Earlier this year, the vaccine had a 72 percent overall efficacy rate in the United States and 64 percent in South Africa.

Despite there being no official U.S. data on what would happen if you mix vaccines or get an extra one, Avula suspects some Virginians still are.

“I imagine people are finding ways,” he said.

Assuming boosters are eventually recommended, Avula said people may have the option to switch vaccines then.

“I think there will be a lot of mixing and matching, and so these studies that have been going on these last few months will be really helpful in determining that guidance,” he said.

Avula says vaccinated Virginians should have faith in their vaccines’ efficacy. If people are still worried, VDH recommends they return to the basics: mask-wearing, extra handwashing and social distancing.

The vaccines are still largely keeping vaccinated Virginians safe, according to Avula. If that changes will be closely watched.

“We will continue to follow the studies and see when antibody production drops off or when we start to see a lot of breakthrough infections,” he said Wednesday.

Avula says booster shots likely won’t be necessary until early next year. According to Avula, VDH is being asked if it is okay to get an extra shot.

“We are definitely receiving that question a lot,” he said.

Avula says the folks who should be most concerned are those still unvaccinated. He’s hoping they may consider getting vaccinated now that the most contagious variant so far is being more prevalent in the state.

The White House recently said more than 99 percent of Americans who died from COVID-19 in June were unvaccinated.

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