New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals serious cases of breakthrough COVID-19 have occurred. Despite vaccines' over 90% effectiveness in preventing severe disease, records show that more than 4,100 people have been hospitalized or died from COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.
According to CNBC, at least 750 Americans have perished after contracting COVID-19, even though they were fully vaccinated. But the CDC warns caution in interpreting these statistics. It says 142 of these fatalities may have been unrelated to COVID-19. Similarly, of the 3,907 reports of hospitalizations, more than 1,000 of the patients were asymptomatic or their hospital admission was not related to COVID-19.
Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases who currently serves as an advisor to the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC that these breakthrough cases are “to be expected” as the vaccines are not 100%, even against severe disease.
Breakthrough cases that elude COVID-19 vaccine protection are rare and many are asymptomatic, say experts. Pfizer’s drug blocks 95% of severe infections and Moderna’s vaccine offers 94% protection against serious illness from COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66% effective against significant disease, according to CNBC.
The CDC stopped its tally of all breakthrough cases on May 1, 2021 and now reports on only those that result in hospitalization and death.
“You are just as likely to be killed by a meteorite as die from COVID-19 after a vaccine,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a medical director who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. “In the big scheme of things, the vaccines are extremely powerful.” Chin-Hong encouraged people not to be afraid to get vaccinated, saying it benefits even those who have already had the virus, according to reports.
In San Diego County, at least three residents died of COVID-19 after being vaccinated. All three had pre-existing conditions and were over the age of 65.
Worldwide, countries have seen more breakthrough cases caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19. In Israel, even with 80% of its residents fully vaccinated, statistics show that the Delta variant is now responsible for 70% of new infections. One third of the new cases were in vaccinated people.
In the U.K., Public Health England reported that 26 out of 73 deaths caused by the Delta variant between June 8 and June 14 were in fully vaccinated people, according to CNBC. Chin-Hong suggested that researchers should investigate whether hospitalizations and deaths occurred more frequently in immunocompromised individuals and determine what vaccine they received.
According to CDC data, more than 76% of the U.S cases of breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths were noted in people over the age of 65, says CNBC. According to Forbes, 49% of these cases have been female. Putting the breakthrough cases into perspective, Bruce Y. Lee, a senior contributor to Forbes, calculates that the actual number of 4,115 breakthrough cases reported by the CDC is less than 0.003% of all fully vaccinated people, considering that over 150 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated.
Lee points out that your risk of getting more severe COVID-19 is “much, much higher when you’re not vaccinated, compared to when you are fully vaccinated.”
He adds that the number of breakthrough cases “are reminders that you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind after you’ve been fully vaccinated. Until the pandemic ends, it will be important to stay vigilant and keep yourself protected.”
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