Q: What are “breakthrough infections”? Do they mean the COVID vaccine is not effective?
A breakthrough infection occurs when someone gets infected with COVID-19 after they’ve been fully vaccinated. Breakthrough infections can occur with every kind of vaccine because of the varying efficacies each vaccine has been proven to achieve. The COVID-19 vaccine is no different, which means a small number of people will still contract the virus, even after being fully vaccinated.
So why get vaccinated even if you can still contract COVID-19? In addition to keeping your loved ones safe by being less likely to get infected with COVID-19, the fully vaccinated individual that experiences a breakthrough infection is far less likely to experience severe illness or require hospitalization. Each current available COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection from against the virus, including the Delta and other variants.
Vaccinated individuals are also doing their part to help put an end to this pandemic. Many may think that one person may not make a difference on a larger scale or that they just want to “wait” and see what happens, but while they wait, the virus continues to change and mutate with each new infected individual. And, with each new infection comes an opportunity for the COVID-19 virus to mutate and continue to spread through our community. Current research shows that the more people that are vaccinated now, the less likely we are to see dangerous variants emerge. If we are unsuccessful at slowing new COVID-19 infections, the Delta variant, which is already twice as contagious than the original virus, is likely not the last mutation of this virus we will experience as just last month CDC officials confirmed that one of their largest concerns is that we’re “just a few mutations away” from a new, more elusive variant.
Data from breakthrough cases, especially with the Delta variant, do show evidence that one can still transmit the virus to others which is why it is so important to continue to practice preventative measures including masking, avoiding crowds and close contact with loved ones who are unvaccinated or at high risk for infection, regardless of your vaccination status.
We’ve come so far with understanding what COVID-19 is, how it spreads, and how to protect ourselves from it. Let’s not give this virus any more opportunity to change, grow or mutate so that we may move past this deadly pandemic and begin our new normal together, because together we are stronger.
The best way to prevent the virus from mutating is to prevent hosts, people, from getting sick in the first place. That's why it's so important for all of us to stay home if your ill, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, and get vaccinated. Let’s all do our part to finally put an end to this pandemic.
Infection Control Manager, Maui Health