With Covid-19 numbers on the rise again across the United States, breakthrough infections, although rare, are making headlines.
Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan tested positive for Covid-19 after vaccination, according to a statement from his office Monday. A fully vaccinated entertainment journalist 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 showing 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. Basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson who confirmed on her Instagram account that she would not be able to compete in Tokyo because she too tested positive.
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 occurs when someone 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. 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.
It is uncertain how many mild or asymptomatic breakthrough Covid-19 infections there are in the US. The CDC stopped counting in May, however the CDC still counts hospitalizations and deaths from breakthrough infections. The agency said it made this transition to “help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.”
As of July 12, there have been 5,492 patients with Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough infections who have been hospitalized or died, according to the CDC. This is a small number among the more than 159 million people that have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“If we want breakthrough cases to stop, then we need to have everybody else get vaccinated, so there’s no virus in circulation and then it won’t matter anymore,” Edwards said.
Nationally, less than 50% of the US has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC. If more people are vaccinated, the coronavirus has fewer people it can infect. It also limits the number of new variants that can develop. More variants in circulation increase the likelihood that the coronavirus can evade the protection of the vaccines.