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Health Officials Monitoring for signs of “breakthrough” Infections—ie, Infections in fully Vaccinated Individuals
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security , in order to understand the effectiveness of vaccination efforts, health officials are monitoring for signs of “breakthrough” infections—ie, infections in fully vaccinated individuals—which provide insight regarding both the degree of protection provided by the vaccines as well as risk factors that could affect that protection. But in order to effectively utilize these data, health officials must determine (1) what qualifies as a breakthroughinfection and (2) whether they should treat all breakthroughinfections equally. As we covered previously, clinical trials for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines utilized different metrics to estimate efficacy, and depending on whether you look at SARS-CoV-2 infection, symptomatic COVID-19 disease, or severe disease or death, vaccine efficacy can vary widely. An article published in The Atlantic takes a similar look at breakthroughinfections.
From a strict epidemiological perspective, taken by the US CDC, any SARS-CoV-2 infection in a fully vaccinated individual is technically a breakthroughinfection; however, breakthroughinfections are not “synonymous with vaccine failure.” Breakthroughinfections encompass a broad scope of disease severity, ranging from asymptomatic infections to severe disease and, in some instances, death. But the fraction of breakthroughinfections that result in severe disease is extremely small, which is exactly what the clinical trial data illustrate. While the authorized vaccines’ efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 disease is 90% or higher, the efficacy against severe disease is nearly 100%. Symptomatic breakthroughinfections are not unexpected—nor are severe cases—but the vaccines have demonstrated their ability to drive that risk to nearly zero. In fact, the CDC has reported only 3,554 hospitalized breakthrough cases and 733 deaths out of more than 157 million fully vaccinated individuals*. Ultimately, the goal of vaccination is to prevent severe disease and death, and any additional benefit in terms of mitigating infection or transmission is a bonus. Based on the available data, it is clear that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are excelling, and they will remain a critical tool in preventing serious disease and death around the world as vaccination efforts continue.
*Through July 6; excluding asymptomatic individuals and those whose hospitalization or death was a result of other conditions