Variants are expected as viruses constantly change through mutation. As the virus travels from person to person, it changes slightly each time it is transmitted. Thus, we have variants that form. It’s possible for new variants to emerge, then disappear–where others may persist such as the Delta variant. 

What is a variant?

A variant as another version of something, that has varying similarities and differences to it’s original form. In context to COVID-19, the delta variant is a mutation of the COVID-19 virus that is similar in spike protein shape but has drastic differences in transmission-ability and severity of symptoms.  

How do variants form?

Think of the telephone game, sitting in a circle with friends whispering a message into one another’s ear. Once you get towards the end of the line, the message is never the same. Apply that concept to the coronavirus. The virus travels from person to person, changing a little each time it is transmitted.  

Current Variants of Concern 

Delta

Spread: Spreads more easily than other variants.  

Prevention: Masks are an effective tool for limiting the spread of COVID-19. 

Current vaccines are proven to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. 

Severe Illness & Death: May cause more severe cases than other variants 

Vaccine Breakthrough: Breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are expected- 

Early evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others.  

Not Fully Vaccinated: Those who are not fully vaccinated are at the highest risk of contracting Delta. 

Treatments: Monoclonal antibody treatments can be used to treat the Delta variant. 

Omicron

Spread: May spread more easily than other variants, including Delta.  

Prevention: Masks are an effective tool for limiting the spread of COVID-19. It is recommended to wear a surgical, N95 or KN95 mask due to the increased transmissibility of Omicron. 

Current vaccines are proven to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. Due to limited data, it is unclear how effective the current vaccines are against Omicron. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters. 

Severe Illness & Death: Due to limited data at this time, it is unclear if this variant causes more severe cases.  

Vaccine Breakthrough: Breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are expected. Early evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Omicron variant can spread the virus to others. Reinfection is currently being investigated, but evidence suggests it is possible with this new variant due to the increased transmissibility.  

Not Fully Vaccinated or Boosted: Those who are not fully vaccinated or late for boosters are at higher risk for contracting Omicron. 

Treatments: Some monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against infection with Omicron. 

How can being vaccinated help?

Getting vaccinated and getting your booster shot can help decrease the risk of severe symptoms, prevent hospitalization and even death from all variants.  

Current vaccines provide protection against severe illness, hospitalizations and death with all variants. Vaccine effectiveness is being continually investigated with each variant. Overall, more doses of any vaccine means more protection and less severe illness. If you haven’t gotten your booster or vaccine yet, get one today. 

 

Breakthrough cases, meaning those who are already vaccinated and test positive to COVID-19, are possible. Although it is less likely to become severely ill, it’s more likely that you can be asymptomatic and unknowingly pass on the virus to others.  

This is the reason why mask mandates are being put back in place to protect not only yourself, but others around you–especially those who are unable to get vaccinated due to various health reasons. 

As we have seen with these variants, getting vaccinated as a whole community can stop the mutation of more deadly variants in the future. Getting vaccinated is no longer just for personal gain or benefit–it’s for everyone else around you to be safe. In other words, it’s not for me, it’s for we. 

Get Vaccinated

Health Services has COVID-19 vaccines available to all WSU students and staff. Come stop by the clinic in IWC 222 between 10–11:30AM & 2:30–4PM Mon–Fri for your FREE COVID-19 vaccine.

Already been vaccinated? Fill out the self-report form below.

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Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson graduated in 2020 with a degree in Art: I-Design. As a student, she worked with the University Marketing & Communications team as a writer and photographer. She was hired after graduation to support public health communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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