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Are there different strains or variants of COVID-19?

Last Updated: 02/17/2023

Viruses constantly change or mutate, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur overtime. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist.

Some COVID-19 variants, including the Delta and Omicron variants, may spread more easily than other variants.

The CDC and the NJ Department of Health have recommended updated COVID-19 vaccines to everyone six months and older. The updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines offer stronger protections from Omicron and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants.

The emergence of variants like Omicron further emphasize the importance of vaccination. Vaccines provide essential protection against severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.

No matter the variant, a surge in cases can impact healthcare resources. Even if a particular variant is less likely to cause severe disease, an increase in the total number of cases could cause an increase in hospitalizations, put more strain on healthcare resources, and potentially lead to more deaths.

The NJ Department of Health and the CDC are continuously monitoring variants in the United States.

For the latest data on variant cases reported in New Jersey by county, visit the NJ Department of Health's dashboard.

Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

Preliminary data suggest that Omicron may cause more mild disease, although some people may still have severe disease, need hospitalization, and could die from the infection with this variant.

For more information, visit the CDC's page on COVID-19 variants.

Delta Variant

On April 14, 2022, Delta was downgraded from a variant of concern to a variant being monitored based on evidence suggesting that Delta does not currently pose a significant risk to public health in the United States.

How do I protect myself from these variants?

The best way to protect yourself from the virus is to get a COVID-19 vaccine and, if you are over 65 or immunocompromised, an updated bivalent vaccine. Updated COVID-19 vaccines help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants.

Everyone 6 months or older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey and encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Learn more.

Adults ages 65 years and older and people who are immunocompromised may receive an additional updated, bivalent vaccine dose.

Individuals ages 6 years and older who have already received a bivalent dose do not need to take any action unless they are 65 years or older or immunocompromised.

For young children, multiple doses continue to be recommended and will vary by age, vaccine, and which vaccines were previously received.

For more information on how to protect yourself and others, refer to this article.

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