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Catching COVID-19 after vaccination: what you need to know

Coronavirus vaccines have been hailed as miracles of science and technology, and rightly so. Due to widespread vaccination, the average number of new cases of COVID-19 in the United States is the lowest since last fall. Hospitalizations and deaths among older Americans have plummeted. As Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease specialist, urges us all: “Be truly grateful that we have three truly effective vaccines.”

Yet despite all the good news about COVID-19 vaccines, it can still seem difficult – and even scary – to tackle the fact that it’s still possible to contract COVID-19 once you’re fully vaccinated. It doesn’t help that groundbreaking cases have been started by vaccine opponents who seek to sow and sow doubt.

Do you wonder why so-called “revolutionary” cases occur and how common they are? Here are some basics to keep in mind.

Revolutionary cases are really rare.

First, a simple (but important) reminder from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “No vaccine can prevent disease 100%.” For each vaccine, there will be revolutionary cases. The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are no exception, and experts know it right off the bat.

In clinical trials prior to generalized vaccination, the Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective against symptomatic disease, the Moderna vaccine was 94.5% effective against symptomatic disease, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective in preventing symptomatic disease. symptomatic disease (as well as 85% to prevent serious disease).

The CDC has followed breakthrough cases in real time since then, as millions of Americans rolled up their sleeves and public health officials were able to get a better idea of ​​the risk of infection after vaccination. At the end of April, the CDC said that among more than 95 million people in the United States who had been fully vaccinated, the agency was aware of about 9,000 rupture infections.

“It’s not something unexpected, and the numbers we’re seeing right now are really tiny,” Taylor Nelson, infectious disease specialist at MU Health Care, told HuffPost. “That’s a small fraction – a percentage – of people who suffer from breakthrough infections.”

Experts do not yet know how many breakthrough infections are linked to the worrying variants that groups like the CDC are tracking, although early evidence of vaccine resistance in real conditions is promising.

“When we have a case that we think is a breakthrough infection, we try to send the sample for sequencing to see: Is there a pattern? Is it this variation or this variation that is more likely to give someone a breakthrough? Nelson said. “But I don’t know if we still have those answers.”

It seems quite likely that the revolutionary cases are less serious.

The CDC is cautious about overselling this item, saying “there is evidence that vaccination can make the disease less severe.”

About 27% of the groundbreaking cases known to the CDC were asymptomatic infections, for example. This does not mean that really serious results are impossible. There have been 835 hospitalizations among those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (although 30% of these were classified as asymptomatic or unrelated to COVID-19), and there were also 132 deaths – but again, not all of them were necessarily directly linked to COVID-19.

“The vaccine still elicits a certain immune response to help your body fight the infection and that results in a milder infection,” Nelson said. “There is probably a lower probability of transmission, too.”

There are no clear diagrams of people at risk.

Current CDC data on breakthrough cases suggests that about 60% of reported breakthrough infections have been in women, although it’s too early to say anything. This may be because women are more likely to seek health care, or because women’s immune systems respond to the vaccine differently than men’s.

And about 40% of groundbreaking cases were in people aged 60 and over, although, again, this could simply be because older Americans were vaccinated in greater numbers. All of this means that at this point there are no really clear diagrams of who appears to be at the greatest risk for breakthrough infection.

“I don’t know yet that there is a pattern that we can really identify,” Nelson said. “I would say we’re obviously thinking about these new variations that are out there.”

It should also be noted that the duration of immunity after vaccination is not yet entirely clear, although research suggests that it lasts at least six months. So there could be some confusion in the future about the true cases of rupture versus those that appear when people’s immunity potentially begins to wane.

“Unfortunately, only time can tell us how long these vaccines will be as effective as they are,” Nelson said. “I think the general opinion is that probably at least about a year.” But we won’t really have a clear idea of ​​that until next fall or winter, she added.

It’s important to stay on top of the changing recommendations for post-immunization life – and to follow them.

The CDC has slowly changed its guidelines on what people can do once they’re fully immunized. It is normal to meet with a small group of friends outdoors without a mask, for example, or to go for a walk or bike ride. If you’re fully vaccinated, it’s also generally safe to travel to the U.S. Our current COVID-19 vaccines really do confer robust protection, and health experts want everyone who’s been really hungry for normality, connection and of physical affection benefit from the vaccination of freedoms. offers.

Remember: the fact that there have been groundbreaking cases (and there always will be) “is not a vaccine failure at any point in the imagination,” Nelson said.

But there are still times when the CDC urges fully immunized Americans to take preventative measures such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and washing hands – especially when you’re in a crowded space or poorly ventilated.

“If you are with people who are not fully vaccinated, or if you are with someone who cannot be vaccinated … or if you are in a crowd or in a poorly ventilated area, it is probably important to keep doing these other mitigation actions, ”Nelson said.

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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