Less than a month after first reaching Virginia, officials now find the Delta variant across the state.

ROANOKE- The number of COVID-19 variant cases in Virginia is on the rise. The Delta variant concerns health officials the most, as you can find it in all five of the state’s health districts. 

Why focus on the Delta variant? A couple reasons. First, it’s the “fastest and fittest” variant, according to the World Health Organization. That means it replicates faster than the original, evading a body’s immune system. Second, it’s more contagious. Follow the WHO’s logic here. The Alpha variant is 50% more contagious than the original version of COVID-19. Delta, meanwhile, is between 50% to 60% more contagious than the Alpha version. So it’s a fast mutating version that infects people at a quicker rate than any other variant.  

The WHO traced the earliest documented sample of the Delta variant to Oct. 2020 in India. On April 4, the WHO moved its status to a variant of Interest. By May 11, WHO moved it up to a variant of concern. As of late June, the Virginia Department of Health joined the list of organizations that bumped the Delta variant up to a VOC ranking.

Now it’s not just here in Virginia, it’s spreading. As of June 24, there were 41 cases. Less than a week later, that jumped to 48. As of July 9, the health department reported 88 cases across the Commonwealth. Out of those 88, 7 are children under 10, unable to get the vaccine. Mainly right now, it’s becoming a problem in two specific areas and not likely the ones you’d think. 

Henrico County contains 21 of the current cases. Behind that is Fairfax and Chesterfield counties, both with 9. No other area has reported more than 7.  

Where Does The Delta Variant Reach? 

The biggest question is about who’s most vulnerable. The answer is unvaccinated Virginians. Out of the 189,783 COVID-19 cases reported in Virginia, only 0.6% (or 1,063 people) had been fully vaccinated. So far, the number’s even smaller when you focus only on the Delta variant. The Virginia Health Department reports no fully vaccinated residents infected with that strain as of yet. 

“Over 99% of COVID-19 cases in Virginia have occurred in people who were not fully vaccinated,” said Virginia Health Commission Norman Oliver. “I continue to encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so.”

To be clear, neither the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine gives a 100% guarantee you won’t get the virus. But they’re pretty close. The Pfizer version is 95% effective and Moderna comes in at 94.1%. 

As to whether they’re effective against the Delta variant, the answer is yes. 

A group of Oxford University researchers studied antibodies in the blood of fully vaccinated individuals over the last six months, focusing on if the vaccines neutralized the Delta variant. The group published their work in the scientific journal Cell. They found “no evidence of widespread [infection], suggesting that the current generation of vaccines will provide protection against the [Delta] lineage.”

How Can I Get Vaccinated? 

If you want to get the vaccine, there are several ways to make that happen. First, you can check with your regular pharmacy or doctor, to schedule a shot. Second, you can schedule an appointment at vaccinate.virginia.gov, vaccinefinder.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at brian@vadogwood.com.