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Breakthrough COVID-19 infections: what vaccinated people need to know

Reports of people suffering from breakthrough coronavirus infections after being vaccinated continue to surface. It can be alarming to read the headlines about more people getting sick or stories about the terrible symptoms that come with it.

But these cases don’t mean the shots are unsuccessful, they mean they work.

When the rush for a COVID-19 vaccine began last year, health officials hoped it would even be only 50% effective against serious illness and death, said Monica Gandhi, a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of California at San Francisco. “Even a not-so-good vaccine would make a huge dent in the pandemic,” she added. The three vaccines available in the United States have given much better results than that.

“It was so amazing. And that’s what happened in the real world, ”Gandhi said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 97% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated; 99.5% of deaths concern unvaccinated people. If you are vaccinated, you don’t have to worry about getting very sick or dying.

This is the goal of COVID-19 vaccines. This has always been the general objective. Getting a mild case of the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated can also be taken as proof that the inoculation is doing its job. It’s probably not going to get any worse – something that was not guaranteed before vaccines.

It’s only right to worry – after all, no one wants get sick in any form but there is no reason to panic at this time if you are vaccinated. Here’s why:

Overall, breakthroughs are the exception, not the rule.

It may appear that there are heaps of new cases of COVID-19 in people who are fully vaccinated. But keep in mind that social media can be an echo chamber. In addition, there are over 200 million people who have received a vaccine, so cases will occur purely on the basis of mathematical possibilities. Yet they are rare.

“Of course you’re going to hear stories here and there of people who are fully vaccinated and catching COVID because there are so many of us out there who are fully vaccinated,” said Megan Ranney, associate professor of emergency medicine and associate. Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. “But the people who are in the hospital are people who haven’t been vaccinated. Remember that while there are a few stories, these should not be enough to scare you away from the vaccine. “

And this is probably happening because we are going back to our pre-pandemic lives.

Vaccines don’t become unnecessary. Many just take less precautions after gunfire.

“In February, March and April, most people still masked themselves, avoided travel and restaurants. Now everyone does everything, ”said Ranney. “Just because there are infections doesn’t mean the vaccine is failing one way or another. It just means that people are exposed to the virus with no protection other than the vaccine. “

“Just because there are infections doesn’t mean the vaccine is somehow failing.”

– Megan Ranney, Associate Dean, Brown University School of Public Health

Most cases of breakthrough are asymptomatic or mild.

The majority of breakthrough cases will occur without symptoms or with what doctors consider mild. This does not mean that the disease will not be horrible; it can look like a terrible cold or the flu.

But, as mentioned, it can be taken as a sign that the vaccine is doing its job. Your immune system remembers how to fight the virus and prevent it from getting worse – a much better result than what happened before the vaccines were distributed.

Experts don’t currently believe breakthrough infections will lead to a long COVID.

Long-term complications have occurred with even mild cases of COVID-19. Long-haul travelers live with debilitating symptoms, such as nerve pain, neurological problems, fatigue, and oxygen complications. Experts don’t think this will be the case after major infections because your immune response will attack the virus much faster.

“It’s really the deregulated immune response that occurs with a natural infection where it takes you a while to get rid of it that causes a long COVID,” Gandhi said. “With the vaccine in place, your immune system kicks in quickly and… it goes specifically to that virus to get it out of your system. It also doesn’t trigger that crazy immune response that can make you so sick. “

Gandhi noted that this was under consideration to confirm the hypothesis, but as of yet, experts have seen no indication of long COVID after a breakthrough case, and there is no reason to assume otherwise.

If you’re still not convinced, use the seat belt analogy.

Just because you know someone who has been in a car accident while wearing a seat belt doesn’t mean you think seat belts are unnecessary.

“Seat belts keep you from really hurting yourself. They do not prevent you from having an accident and if you have a serious accident you could be injured even if you are wearing a seat belt. But it will protect you, for the most part, from injury, ”explained Ranney.

Think of vaccines the same way. In the end, we are so much better with them. That’s the point.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but directions may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.

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