While the COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the U.S. protect against COVID-19, no vaccine is 100% effective. You may still contract the virus if you are fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks must have passed since receiving a second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine. When this happens, it is referred to as a breakthrough case.
1. Breakthrough Cases Are Increasing
Although breakthrough cases are rare, they are becoming more prevalent as new virus variants emerge and more time passes since people were vaccinated. According to recent research, COVID-19 vaccines offered 91% protection against the virus in spring. This the number has declined to 78% in June and July.
Researchers are trying to understand if the changes are because immunity from the virus is waning in those who were first vaccinated or if the vaccine isn’t as effective against the Delta variant. They are also questioning if the decrease in efficacy is because people are more relaxed about practicing the safety precautions that previously protected them.
2. Cases Tend to Be Milder Among Those Who Are Vaccinated
Although vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, they will most likely get milder cases than unvaccinated individuals. A mild case means that their symptoms are manageable at home, and they don’t require hospitalization. In some cases, a person may not experience any symptoms at all.
Symptom duration also appears to be much shorter among those who are vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals who get critically ill tend to be older adults with underlying medical conditions. According to one study, the median age was 80.
3. Vaccines Offer the Best Chance at Protection From COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death
Despite the increase in breakthrough cases, vaccinations are still the best way to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19. According to a CDC study, those who are vaccinated are not only about five times less likely to be infected, but they are also ten times less likely to be hospitalized and die from the virus.
These numbers tell us that the vaccines are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They are protecting people from the more harmful consequences of the virus.
4. There is Still Much We Don't Know About Breakthrough Cases
There is still a lot that researchers don’t understand about breakthrough cases, partly because the CDC doesn’t track breakthrough cases that don’t lead to hospitalizations or death.
Also, many cases go unnoticed because their symptoms are mild or they are asymptomatic. It’s important to keep in mind that vaccinated individuals with COVID can still spread the virus to others, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. Anyone who tests positive should quarantine and stay home to keep their loved ones and communities safe.
5. Booster Shots May Reduce Risk of a Breakthrough Case
Recent data suggests that a third shot can dramatically increase protection against infection and the chance of severe illness from COVID-19. According to the CDC, boosters shots can be particularly beneficial to those with weakened immune systems. Some i don’t build the same level of immunity after they are vaccinated as non-immunocompromised people do. These individuals may need a third dose of the vaccine to ensure sufficient protections against COVID-19 and more severe cases of infection.
More Information About Vaccines
The COVID-19 vaccine is available to everyone 12 and older. For more information about the vaccine, please visit vaccines.gov.