COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections

With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continuing, there is an aspect of the vaccine that has not received much coverage in the mainstream media.

Here is the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

As background, according to the CDC, as of April 30, 2021, approximately 101 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  Up to April 30, 2021, a total of 10,262 SARS-CoV-2 infections had been detected and reported in individuals that had been fully vaccinated from 46 states.  This means that (at least) one out of every 9,842 vaccinated individuals has experienced a breakthrough COVID-19 infection in the United States.

The data can be further broken down as follows:

Females – 6,446 cases (63 percent)

Median patient age – 58 with a range of 40 to 74 years

Asymptomatic cases – 2,725 (27 percent)

Hospitalizations – 995 (10 percent)

Hospitalizations for other reasons – 289

Deaths – 160 (2 percent)

Deaths median age – 82 years

Sequencing data available – 555 cases (5 percent)

Infections with variants of concern (of the 555 cases) – 356 cases

While the number of breakthrough infections may appear to be relatively minor (unless you have the misfortune of being one of those who experiences COVID-19 after vaccinations), the CDC notes that there are at least three limitations to the data:

1.) the number of reported COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases is likely a substantial undercounting of all SARS-CoV-2 infections among fully vaccinated persons given that the national vaccine surveillance system relies on voluntary reporting.

2.) Many persons with vaccine breakthrough infections (particularly those who have mild cases or are asymptomatic) may not seek out testing.

3.) As noted above, SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data is only available for 555 cases or 5 percent of the total vaccine breakthrough cases reported to the CDC.

To confuse the issue further, beginning on May 1, 2020, the CDC transitioned from monitoring all COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections to investigating only the cases of patients that are either hospitalized or die since the CDC claims that these are the cases that are of the highest clinical and public health significance.  This means that, ultimately, there will be no reporting of the actual COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases making it difficult for researchers to determine an accurate assessment of the vaccine's effectiveness.

Nonetheless, the CDC states that:

"The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that will be prevented among vaccinated persons will far exceed the number of vaccine breakthrough cases."

…and that:

"FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. CDC recommends that all persons aged ≥12 years be vaccinated with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine."

…even though the vaccine phase three trials are not set to end until April 6, 2023 for the Pfizer vaccine and October 27, 2022 for the Moderna vaccine.

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