COVID-19: Vaccination and the Delta Variant

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has prompted new warnings from health officials and renewed lockdowns in parts of the world. It’s now the dominant COVID-19 strain, accounting for more than 83% of new cases in the United States. Infection prevention experts at Memorial Health System say the threat from this virus mutation highlights the importance of getting vaccinated.

How effective is the vaccination against the Delta variant?

Fortunately, all three COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are very effective against this variant. The most recent research shows that these vaccines are around 80% effective at preventing infection and, most importantly, 95% effective at preventing serious illness causing hospitalization.

“The rapid spread of the Delta variant and other variants means that people who are not vaccinated are at extreme risk for infection,” said Rajesh G. Govindaiah, MD, MBA, FACP, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Memorial Health System. “We now have a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ According to the CDC, 97% of U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients.”

Similar trends are occurring at Memorial Health System hospitals, where more than 95% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Some of these patients will face a long recovery, including the need for long-term rehabilitation and the use of supplemental oxygen.

“The numbers don’t tell the full story of the impact of COVID-19,” said Dr. Govindaiah. “Patients who survive often aren’t able to return to their normal lives without extensive care and rehabilitation. This is an illness that’s having a huge impact on hundreds of thousands of families.”

Illinois vaccination rates by county

Across the country, counties where vaccination rates are low have seen a dramatic increase in infections in recent weeks. This includes many parts of Missouri, where the Delta variant is leading to dangerous shortages of hospital beds, ventilators and healthcare personnel.

“Unfortunately, areas with lower vaccination rates give the virus more opportunities to spread—potentially even mutating into new variants that put even more people at risk,” said Dr. Govindaiah.

The Illinois Department of Public Health maintains data on Illinois vaccination rates by county. Locally, these rates vary:

  • Christian County – 34.3%
  • Logan County – 41.6%
  • Macon County – 38.4%
  • Morgan County – 41.1%
  • Sangamon County – 49.5%

“Unvaccinated people living in areas with low vaccination rates should be very concerned about the Delta variant,” said Dr. Govindaiah. “The pandemic will only end when we all have immunity, either through COVID-19 illness or through vaccination.”

Scheduling your vaccination

Dr. Govindaiah urges anyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine to consider doing so.

“The importance of vaccination is clear,” he said. “Choosing to remain unvaccinated not only puts yourself at risk, it risks the health of your family, friends and community as well. Vaccination is widely available in central Illinois and it’s a simple step you can take to dramatically reduce that risk.”

Local COVID-19 Vaccination Guide

COVID-19 vaccination is now available to everyone 12 and older, and there are many options to schedule your vaccination.