COVID-19 Breakthrough Cases
While most of the rise in recent cases can be attributed to unvaccinated people, there have been breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in those who are fully vaccinated. Here is what we know about breakthrough COVID cases.
Breakthrough cases were always expected.
COVID-19 vaccines remain the key to controlling the pandemic. However, no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. Experts have always known there will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick from COVID-19.
Breakthrough cases only occur in a small percentage of vaccinated people.
The CDC reports no unexpected patterns among those experiencing breakthrough infections. The amount of breakthrough cases remains low among the total vaccinated population.
The vaccine has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms and hospitalization for those who are fully vaccinated and become infected. An overwhelming majority of those currently hospitalized at Ochsner facilities are unvaccinated. The vaccines were designed to protect people from serious illness, hospitalization and death, and they are proving very effective in these areas.
Can vaccinated individuals become infected with COVID-19 and pass the virus to others?
Vaccinated people who become infected with COVID-19 can pass the virus to others, putting those unvaccinated at greater risk. Vaccinated individuals who have a breakthrough case of COVID-19 can be contagious and spread COVID-19 to others, including immunocompromised people and children who may not be able to receive the vaccine yet. Despite the Delta variant’s higher viral load than previous variants, getting vaccinated still provides protection against contracting the virus and shortens the transmission period. Most importantly, getting vaccinated protects you from the more severe symptoms experienced by unvaccinated individuals.
Why it is important to get the COVID-19 vaccine
Despite breakthrough cases occurring, it is still imperative that people get vaccinated against COVID-19. As variants of COVID-19 continue to emerge in our communities, it has never been more critical for people to get vaccinated, not only to stop the spread of current strains but also to help prevent more mutations and new strains from developing. The severe risks of COVID-19 – even for young, healthy people – outweigh the risks of any possible side effects from the vaccine.
Though breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals were always expected, communities with higher levels of unvaccinated residents are seeing larger numbers of breakthrough cases. The risk for breakthrough infection in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated as long as there is continued community transmission of the virus. Getting vaccinated is the key to stopping community transmission.
Will third dose and booster shots help breakthrough cases?
The CDC says that people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and may not build the same level of immunity after the two-dose vaccine series compared to people who are not immunocompromised. These immunocompromised people are offered an additional dose (or third dose) of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to better protect themselves from breakthrough cases, hospitalization and death.
If you are not immunocompromised but received your initial vaccine early in the vaccination program you may now be eligible to receive a booster shot. The booster shot is currently only available for those who received the Pfizer vaccine who are 65 and older, 18 years and older who have underlying medical conditions (link to CDC conditions) or 18 years and older who work or live in high-risk settings (link to CDC settings). We are awaiting further guidance regarding Moderna and J&J vaccines.
As the Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the United States and cases of COVID-19 continue to rise significantly across the nation, a booster shot will help strengthen protection against severe disease for those who are at high-risk for exposure to COVID-19 or the complications from severe disease. The booster shot increases your protection by boosting your antibodies against COVID-19. Breakthrough infections do happen but being vaccinated helps protect you from the more severe symptoms that could result in hospitalizations or death.
In addition to getting vaccinated, we must continue taking safety measures. Until most of the United States has been vaccinated, people should continue to practice social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks indoors (even if you are vaccinated). These are the best ways to reduce the chance of being exposed to or spreading the virus until the pandemic eases.
Schedule your vaccination appointment or your booster dose on the MyOchsner portal today. Visit ochsner.org/vaccine for more facts or call 844-888-2772 with any additional questions. For more COVID-19 information and resources, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) or the Louisiana Department of Health (ldh.la.gov) website.