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News | Aug. 19, 2021

Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Variants

By TRICARE Communications

As scientists and health experts work to learn more about COVID-19, they’re urging you to keep your guard up. The virus that causes COVID-19 continues to change through mutation, which has caused new variants of the virus to appear in many places around the world. The variant of most concern right now in the U.S. is the Delta variant.
 
“What we’re learning about the Delta variant is that it’s more contagious and causes a more severe illness than other coronavirus variants,” said Donna Hoffman, a nurse practitioner at the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Immunization Health Care Division. “This variant may increase the risk of hospitalization or death among those who aren’t vaccinated. So, it’s critical that you continue to take precautions to protect yourself and your family.”
 
Do your part by getting vaccinated
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine remains one of the best measures you can take to protect your health during the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against severe disease and death from variants. This includes the Delta variant, and it’s further evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines work.
 
“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, we encourage you to do so,” said Ann Morse, a family nurse practitioner at DHA North Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub. “We’ve known for a while now that the vaccines greatly reduce your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, even if you experience a breakthrough infection. But now there’s new evidence that fully vaccinated people who get the virus may be infectious for less time than those who haven’t been fully vaccinated.”
 
The vaccines are also safe. None of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized and recommended by the Food and Drug Administration contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means you can’t get sick with COVID-19 from the vaccine. The side effects that you may experience after getting the shot are normal signs that your body is building protection against infection. The chance of having complications from the COVID-19 vaccines remain very rare. Experts say the risk of getting sick from COVID-19 is far greater than the risk of rare complications from the vaccine. Visit Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work to learn more about the different types of vaccines and how they’re monitored for safety.
 
Continue to follow the latest mask guidance
Since the start of the pandemic, face masks have been another important tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Masks act as a barrier to prevent respiratory droplets from spreading when you sneeze or cough. And they remain crucial with the emergence of the Delta variant. As stated by the CDC, “To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
 
In response, many businesses and workplaces, including the Department of Defense (DoD), have updated their mask policy. In a July 28 memo signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, the DoD announced that anyone at a DoD installation must wear a mask when indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. Those who aren’t vaccinated should continue to social distance as recommended by CDC and DoD Force Health Protection guidance.
 
Make sure you wear your mask properly
Have you been wearing your mask over your nose and mouth? If not, make sure you start. Masks that don’t fully cover your nose and mouth aren’t effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19. When choosing a mask, make sure it:
  • Has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • Completely covers your nose and mouth
  • Fits snugly against sides of your face and doesn’t have gaps
  • Has a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask
 
Visit Your Guide to Masks for more tips on how to properly wear and wash masks.
 
Remember, the Delta variant is highly transmissible. So, do your part to protect yourself and others. Wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and get vaccinated. Even if you’ve already had COVID-19 before, the CDC still recommends you get vaccinated. This may provide you with additional protection against reinfection.
 
For more on Delta and other COVID-19 variants, go to the CDC website. Ready to get your COVID-19 vaccine? Visit the TRICARE website for links to Department of Defense vaccination sites and other options for where you can get the vaccine.

At the time of posting, this information is current. Visit www.cdc.gov or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information.
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