As cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant continue to surge across the U.S., vaccination against the deadly disease is more important than ever, experts say.
According to information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant is more than two times as contagious as previous variants. This is leading to a significant increase in new cases as well as a rapid and alarming rise in the COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates around the country.
Data suggest the Delta variant may be likely to cause more severe illness than previous variants in unvaccinated people. The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths caused by COVID-19 are individuals who remain unvaccinated against the deadly virus.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is continuing to take steps to ensure veterans seeking care at VA health-care facilities, as well as their employees, are protected against the virus. The department recently expanded its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Aug. 13, to apply to most Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees, volunteers and contractors who work in VHA facilities, visit VHA facilities or otherwise come into contact with VA patients and health-care workers as part of their duties, according to a news release.
The most important thing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is to get vaccinated, VA Secretary Denis McDonough told American Legion members at its 102nd National Convention on Aug. 31. All veterans are currently eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccines through VA. The American Legion has worked with VA to host clinics in efforts to get more Americans vaccinated.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine — now marketed as Comirnaty — for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. There is hope that this will encourage people who have been reluctant to get vaccinated will now do so.
“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product. While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated.”
McDonough said getting the simple shot is a way to not only protect yourself but fellow Americans.
“We’ve already lost thousands of veterans to this deadly disease and now the Delta variant is causing an exponential increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths,” he said. “This is why everyone needs to be vaccinated. Almost every person dying from COVID right now is unvaccinated. In other words, almost every COVID death is preventable.”
To learn more about the vaccine, its safety and effectiveness visit the VA COVID-19 information page.