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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, mutations and variants of the coronavirus have been developing and emerging around the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Delta variant in particular has been raising more questions and concerns across the country. Adrian Cotton, MD, chief of medical operations at Loma Linda University Health, says the Delta variant is the third most common strain found in California as of June 28.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 has a tendency to mutate just like all viruses,” Cotton says. “Once it figures out how a host protects itself, it then tries to change.”

Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines against COVID-19 are showing to be effective against this variant so far, says Cotton. “A recent study involving the Pfizer vaccine proved it to be approximately 88% effective against the Delta variant and COVID symptoms caused by the variant,” he says. “The vaccine was also 96% effective in keeping affected individuals out of the hospital.”

The Delta strain, most prominently seen in India, is now making its way across the world, Cotton says. “It is thought to be somewhat more infectious than prior strains, which means it will transmit between individuals faster than some of the prior strains we’ve seen,” he says.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) upped the classification for the Delta variant earlier in June from a “variant of interest” to “variant of concern,” saying that variants that seem more contagious or more likely have a greater impact on illness or vaccine response are labeled as a variant of concern.

As of June 23, the CDPH is monitoring six variants of interest and six variants of concern across the state.

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