If you spend a lot of time on social media, you’ve probably seen posts containing questionable information about COVID-19 vaccines.
A member of Congress recently compared vaccine requirements to expecting everyone to take Tylenol to improve their headache, meaning that if you protect yourself, other people’s decisions are irrelevant. . Others have taken the news about “breakthrough” infections among people who have been vaccinated as proof that no one should bother getting the shot.
The reality is a bit more complicated, and it doesn’t make for a very good meme.
The Denver Post compiled answers to questions about vaccines, successful infections, and all it means for you.
I have read that the effectiveness of vaccines has fallen. should I be worried?
Short answer: not really, unless you are at high risk for serious disease, in which case you may want to consider getting a booster.
A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while the Moderna vaccine continued to reduce the chance of serious illness by more than 90% four months after the second shot, the Pfizer vaccine dropped from 91% effectiveness to 77%. Went. There wasn’t enough data to tell that anything changed for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was initially 71% effective.
Keep in mind, this is still well above the 50% efficacy that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said would be enough to authorize a vaccine last year and better than a seasonal flu vaccine, said Dr. . Lisa Miller said. of public health.
“It’s really, really good” at preventing serious illness, she said.
Some people, apparently, take a 77% effectiveness rate, which means that if they got the Pfizer vaccine, they have a 23% chance of ending up in the hospital. But those numbers don’t mean anything.
What they are saying is that in a typical group of 100 people with COVID-19, about 77 of them are not going to be vaccinated and 23 will have success cases. Success leads to less severe disease, however, so those 23 without the need for intensive care have a much better chance of recovery.
If vaccinated people can still get the virus, why should I bother?
Most successful infections do not cause serious illness. An outbreak during a summer festival in Provincetown, Mass., infected more than 1,000 people, including more than 700 who were vaccinated—but only seven were hospitalized, and no one has died. .
In the first week of September, Colorado had about 17 hospitalizations for every 100,000 unvaccinated people, and about three hospitalizations for every 100,000 vaccinated people, meaning that if you’re vaccinated So the odds of serious illness were about five times lower. Those with or without symptoms were almost three times less likely to test positive.
That said, your personal risk of a more serious breakthrough infection is higher if you are older than 65 or have a chronic condition, especially one that affects your immune system. That’s why the CDC recommends that they consider getting the group booster shot if they are six months out from their second Pfizer shot.
If vaccinated people are so well protected, why should they care if others don’t get the shot?
While the vaccine provides significant protection, older people and those with compromised immune systems may not develop strong protection, Miller said. And of course, children under the age of 12 still cannot be vaccinated and may have little choice about who they are exposed to, she said.
And hospital intensive care units start filling up if not enough vaccinated people get sick, affecting vaccinated people who need those beds for other reasons, whether it’s a stroke, a car accident. Yes, or even as a backup if they have complications from surgery.
“With an infectious disease, your choices may affect me,” Miller said.