Breakthrough cases are currently dominating headlines in the United States, referring to those who contract and become ill with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. But how likely is it, exactly, for fully vaccinated people to become infected with the virus? How many vaccinated people actually get infected with COVID?
In what will surely put a few minds at ease, the answer is “not very many.” According to a new analysis of official state data by the Kaiser Family Foundation, less than 1% of fully vaccinated people have experienced a breakthrough infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported less than 0.004% of breakthrough cases led to hospitalization among those fully vaccinated. Additionally, fewer than 0.001% of breakthrough cases have resulted in death.
Though the federal government only reports data on breakthrough infections that result in hospitalization or death, that still only amounts to approximately 6,600 severe breakthrough cases out of more than 163 million fully vaccinated people. Essentially, that amounts to over 99.99% of fully vaccinated people who have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death.
Basically, there are simply not many vaccinated people who get infected with COVID.
However, the important takeaway here is that more than 95% of COVID-19 cases that resulted in hospitalization or death have been among unvaccinated people. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation Analysis estimates that more than 98% of total cases were among the unvaccinated.
That’s why Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, recently referred to the coronavirus as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” during a July 16 White House press briefing.
“There is a clear message that is coming through. We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” said Walensky.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that vaccine breakthrough cases were always expected, to some degree—as none of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) are 100% effective at preventing illness. Therefore, according to the CDC, a small percentage of fully vaccinated people will still get sick, be hospitalized, or die from the disease.
For those who are fully vaccinated and still feeling anxious, the good news is that some basic precautions can lessen the risk of breakthrough infections.
The most simple safety measure that can be taken is masking, particularly in indoor public spaces. As vaccination rates continue to increase amid outbreaks of the delta variant, it’s also best to continue to physically distance when attending large gatherings, such as weddings, concerts, and sporting events.
And while it’s up to everyone to assess their own risk, these measures can be even more crucial for those living in states with lower vaccination rates, such as Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama.
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