Doctors explain how Delta variant can infect those who are fully vaccinated, lead to increase in hospitalizations

Variant easier to spread, doctors say

SAN ANTONIO – The number of COVID-19 Delta variant cases is going up in San Antonio, with a 66% increase in hospitalizations in the last week, according to city data.

The area is also seeing breakthrough cases, which yield a COVID-19 positive test result in someone who is fully vaccinated. An internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document suggests a vaccinated person who becomes infected can pass the virus on just as easily as someone who isn’t.

“The previous variant, one person would give it to maybe two, three people. The virus with this variant, it’s in the range of giving it to eight to nine people. So it’s really like a different virus. It’s just much more contagious,” said Dr. Jan Patterson, an infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 Delta variant can spread as easily as chickenpox. Its high viral load and transmissibility rate are what make it so dangerous.

“There’s much more virus in the upper respiratory tract, which makes it more transmission, so this is why even fully vaccinated people can get a mild infection now,” Patterson said.

Rita Espinoza, chief of epidemiology at the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, said that, although vaccinated people can still get infected, the vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself.

“(The vaccine is) there to protect you from severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths, which is the message we’ve been saying all along -- that it may not prevent you from contracting COVID, but hopefully you would have a milder illness,” Espinoza said.

She added that 95% of hospitalizations in the San Antonio area were of people who were not vaccinated.

The CDC has reinstated its recommendation on mask-wearing regardless of vaccination status.

An investigation into what scientists believe was a coronavirus outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, had nearly 900 people infected, 74% of whom were vaccinated.

“Unfortunately, we’re in a new phase of this pandemic. It means we need to wear our masks indoors, and it means you need to get your vaccination if you haven’t already,” Patterson said.

About the Authors:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.