COVID Variants and Breakthrough Cases


What are COVID-19 variants?

Viruses like COVID-19 go through changes, and these changed viruses are called variants. The COVID-19 virus will probably go through more changes and therefore have more variants. This is what many viruses do. The newest variant is called the Omicron variant. A previous variant is called the Delta variant.

Why are variants different?

Most variants are not significantly changed from the original version of the virus. Some
variants of the COVID-19 virus have changed in ways that make it easier to get sick from
the virus or to give it to someone else. That is the case with the Delta and Omicron variants
of COVID-19, but not others. If you get sick with a variant, you could give the virus to many
more people than the original COVID-19 virus. For example, someone with the Delta variant
can infect 5-6 people, which is more people than before. For the Omicron variant, one
person can infect many more than someone with Delta.

What are the symptoms of new variants?

The symptoms caused by the new variants are similar – fever, cough, body aches, loss of taste, loss of smell, shortness of breath, and diarrhea among other symptoms. Omicron may also cause scratchy throat, dry cough, and sneezing as well.

Do these variants make you sicker?

We don’t know for sure if variants make you sicker. But since it is easier to become sick, more people getting the virus means more people overall are getting sick.

What ages are the people who get sicker from COVID-19 variants?

Since variants can make more people get sick, there is a bigger chance of getting very sick if you:

  • Did not get vaccinated or get a booster when eligible.
  • Did get the vaccine but your body did not build up a strong protection against the virus.

If had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?

Yes. You can get the COVID-19 again even if you’ve had it in the past. The vaccine gives you more consistent and stronger protection that you need to keep from getting very sick.

How will other variants affect me?

Every time the virus goes through another change and makes a new variant, we want to
know how it will affect us. We do not know what the symptoms will be, how sick we can get, or how easily we might get the virus until the doctors and scientists have time to study the new variants.

What can I do to protect myself from other variants?

It is important to remember that the vaccines for COVID-19 are still useful in protecting
against the virus and its variants. The most important thing is to get vaccinated and a
booster dose of the vaccine if you are eligible. You should keep on doing the same things
that we know give us protection. Doing the following things can help to make it less likely
that you will get the virus or get very sick.

  • Get your vaccination.
  • Avoid crowded indoor areas when you can.
  • Wear your mask when you are indoors and you do not know if everyone is vaccinated or it is crowded.

If I am vaccinated, can I still get COVID-19?

Yes. However, symptoms are usually mild, or there will be no symptoms at all.

If I can still get COVID-19, why should I even get the vaccine?

The vaccine is very good at keeping you from getting very sick from COVID-19. This includes being so sick that you will need to stay in the hospital, need to be in the Intensive Care Unit, or even be so sick that you could die.

If I get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated, can I still become very sick?

You may have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. It is not very likely for someone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get seriously ill.

How long does the vaccine protect me?

All COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection against serious illness. However, the protection against getting mildly or seriously ill with COVID-19 may not be as strong after about 6 months. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get an additional shot called a booster. A Booster shot is another shot on top of the first two shots. You should get a booster dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson vaccine. These booster shots should happen six months after your last dose of the vaccine.

Even if I am vaccinated, what else can I do to protect myself?

You can get a booster dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson vaccine. You can also wear masks at indoor spaces that are crowded and where you are not sure if everyone is vaccinated.

Do I need to wear a mask?

Only in indoor spaces that are crowded and where you are not sure if everyone is vaccinated.

Do I need to practice physical distancing?

Physical Distancing means standing or sitting about 6 feet away from the other person. Physical distancing indoors and outdoors is something you should do for extra protection if you are not vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, you should try to keep your physical distance if you are in a crowded space and you are not sure if everyone else is vaccinated.

If I am vaccinated and come in contact with someone with COVID-19, what do I need to do?

Watch yourself for symptoms. Right now, if you are fully vaccinated and if you have no symptoms, you do not have to get a COVID-19 test or quarantine. “Fully vaccinated” means two weeks after your last dose of the vaccine. This would be your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna and single dose of Johnson and Johnson.

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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
Variants: A Guide for Self-Advocates Variants: A Guide for Self-Advocates pdf Download file: Variants: A Guide for Self-Advocates
Breakthrough Cases: A Guide for Self-Advocates Breakthrough Cases: A Guide for Self-Advocates pdf Download file: Breakthrough Cases: A Guide for Self-Advocates

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.