How ‘Breakthrough’ Infections Occur?


In a recent New York Times article Why Vaccinated People Are Getting ‘Breakthrough’ Infection, health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli highlights the recent occurrence of ‘breakthrough‘ infections around the country — ‘including, most recently, among at least six Texas Democrats, a White House aide and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘.

Referring to health experts, Apoorva writes “as worrying as the trend may seem, breakthrough infections — those occurring in vaccinated people — are still relatively uncommon, and those that cause serious illness, hospitalization or death even more so”.

The takeaway message remains, if you’re vaccinated, you are protected. You are not going to end up with severe disease, hospitalization or death.

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York (source: The New York Times)

Dr. Anthony Fauci reportedly told reporters that the recent incidences of breakthrough infection doesn’t mean that vaccine don’t work. Even if infected, vaccinated people would get overwhelmingly asymptomatic or mild infections.

By no means does that mean that you’re dealing with an unsuccessful vaccine. The success of the vaccine is based on the prevention of illness.

Dr Anthony Fauci (source: The new York Times)

Delta variants reported to carry roughly a thousandfold more virus than those infected with the original virus. “A vaccinated person exposed to a low dose of the coronavirus may never become infected, or not noticeably so. A vaccinated person exposed to extremely high viral loads of the Delta variant is more likely to find his or her immune defenses overwhelmed,” writes Apoorva in The Times.

Dr. Celine Gounder compares the protection offered by vaccination to a golf umbrella that keeps people dry in a rainstorm. “But if you’re out in a hurricane, you’re still going to get wet. That’s kind of the situation that the Delta variant has created, where there’s still a lot of community spread,” added Dr. Gounder.

Dr. Michel C. Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York, told The Times that the vaccination provides immune defense helps recognize the virus upon infection and nutrialize it before it cause.

Vaccine efficacy isn’t 100 percent — it never is. We shouldn’t expect Covid vaccines to be perfect, either. That’s too high an expectation.

 Kristen Panthagani, a geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine (source: The New York Times)

“That is what explains why people do get infected and why people don’t get seriously ill. It’s nearly unavoidable, unless you’re going to give people very frequent boosters,” added Dr. Nussenzweig.

Coronavirus-19 vaccination watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of July 22, 9 a.m.) 391,998,625 doses have been distributed and 339,763,765 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of July 20) a total of 5,840,768 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of July 22) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 609,016 (out of 10,543,189 tested) with 7,648 deaths.