Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan tested positive for Covid-19 after vaccination, according to a statement from his office Monday. Fully vaccinated entertainment journalist Catt Sadler warned her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers not to “let your guard down,” after she got sick after caring for someone with Covid-19 who wasn’t vaccinated. Last Thursday, six players on the New York Yankees tested positive. This was the second instance of breakthrough cases on the team.
Breakthrough cases are also already cropping up in the Tokyo Summer Olympics. An alternate member of the US Olympics gymnastics team, Kara Eaker, who had been vaccinated tested positive for Covid-19 Sunday, her father confirmed to CNN affiliate KMBC Monday. So had basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson who confirmed on her Instagram account that she would not be able to compete in Tokyo.
The good news is that the number of breakthrough infections can be reduced, but it will take a much bigger community effort to protect people from getting Covid-19.
A breakthrough infection by definition
Someone with a breakthrough infection has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 at least 14 days after they have been fully vaccinated according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine full vaccination is after two doses. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine it’s a single dose.Breakthrough infections can cause disease with symptoms, and some people can have no symptoms at all. Research has shown that if people become infected after vaccination, typically they get a milder case.
No vaccine is perfect
Covid-19 vaccines are highly protective against lab confirmed infection and seem to provide protection against the variants; however, a tiny fraction still become infected, just like they can with any other vaccine. “There is no such thing as a vaccine that’s 100% effective,” said Dr. Amy Edwards, the associate medical director of Pediatric Infection Control at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.
With other diseases like mumps or rubella, breakthrough infections are highly rare, Edwards said, because so many people have been vaccinated against those diseases, and mumps and rubella are in low circulation.
“The chance that a person who happened to be a nonresponder to the vaccine would come in contact with those diseases is very low,” said Edwards. “The reason why we are seeing more breakthrough infections with Covid is because there are so many unvaccinated people.”
Another example is the flu vaccine, which reduces the risk of getting sick between 40-60%, studies show. The Covid-19 vaccines are much more protective — as much as 95% effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and deaths.
Breakthrough infections by the numbers
We don’t know how many mild or asymtomatic breakthrough Covid-19 infections there are in the US. The CDC stopped counting in May. (CNN)