Reports of athletes, lawmakers and others getting the coronavirus despite vaccinations may sound alarming, but top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the shots are doing exactly what they need: dramatically increasing the risk of serious illness and disease. reduce death.
The best indicator: US hospitalizations and deaths are among those nearly all uninsured, and real-world figures from Britain and Israel support that protections against the worst cases remain strong. Those who have been fully vaccinated, what scientists call “breakthrough” infections, make up a small fraction of cases.
“When you hear about a successful infection, it doesn’t mean the vaccine is failing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, told a worried Senate panel this week. The shots are catching on, he said, even in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is burning through unincorporated communities.
Health officials have warned that even if COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective – about 95% against symptomatic infections in a study by Pfizer and Moderna – they are not perfect. There is no vaccine.
But it wasn’t until the spread of the delta version that the risk of breakthroughs began to gain public attention. The barrage of headlines is troubling for vaccinated people, wondering how to get back to normalcy with a greater risk of unvaccinated strangers — especially if they have vulnerable family members, such as those who qualify for shots. Children are too young to receive.
Sports fans are seeing daily reports about infected athletes, from the New York Yankees to the Summer Olympics. With the Games soon to begin, Kara Ecker, a member of the US women’s gymnastics team who said she had been vaccinated, tested positive at a training camp outside Tokyo. WNBA player Katie Lou Samuelson withdrew from the Olympics and 3-on-3 basketball competition after testing positive despite vaccination.
And politicians in the nation’s capital are being harassed by reports of successive cases, including that of Florida Republican Vern Buchanan, a congressman; Some Texas Democratic lawmakers visited Washington as a political protest; At least two people and several congressional staff members in the White House.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that some success cases are inevitable with 2,000 people on the White House campus every day, but that the administration will release the information if doctors determine that an employee’s president, vice president or He had close contact with his spouse.
An important question about success cases is whether the person actually had symptoms, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told the Associated Press. “Or is it someone being sampled very carefully just because they had to go to a place like Congress?” she added.
Indeed, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said for months that people vaccinated after exposure to the virus do not need to be tested unless they develop symptoms. The agency cites limited evidence that they are less likely to infect others than people who have asymptomatic infection.
But different places have different rules. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who survived COVID-19 early in the pandemic and is now fully vaccinated – began to quarantine over the weekend after contact with someone who experienced mild symptoms from a successful infection. done.
And rigorous testing is needed as thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and the media – not all of whom have been vaccinated – descend on Tokyo for the pandemic-delayed Olympics.
Although there is no specific count, it is clear that breakthrough infections are rare. As of July 12, the CDC had counted 5,492 vaccinated people who were hospitalized or died and also tested positive for the coronavirus — out of more than 159 million fully vaccinated Americans. CDC Director Dr Rochelle Valensky has said that 99.5% of all deaths from COVID-19 are unrelated.
Mild or asymptomatic successes do not have a separate count, although the CDC is tracking through studies such as those that give weekly virus tests to more than 5,000 essential workers, she told senators.
The successes are mild because a vaccinated person’s immune system does not need to start from scratch to fight the coronavirus. Even if the virus snatches away the vaccine-induced antibodies and begins replicating in your nose or throat, secondary defenses jump into action and usually, “the virus can be found within a few days,” said immunologist Scott Hensley of the University of Pennsylvania. stops in its tracks.”
There are warnings. Vaccines don’t work as well in people with severely weakened immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients.
And the government is watching closely for signs that breakthrough cases, especially severe cases, are on the rise, as it could signal the need for booster vaccinations.
But in the meantime White House officials want to “normalize” the concept of breakthrough transitions to the public, as they worry that these rare, unavoidable events could play out in the misinformation wars that have helped millions of people roll up their sleeves. is of.
“Vaccines were developed to keep us out of the horrible institutions we call hospitals,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. “We have to get back to that.”
Associated Press Writers Jonathan Lemire and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.