This weekend marks two weeks since my second COVID vaccination, and in the eyes of the CDC, I'm considered `fully vaccinated' and can relax some (but not all) of the pandemic precautions we have all been living under for the past year (see CDC Guidelines on How Fully Vaccinated People Can Visit Safely with Others).
As with everything in life, all of this comes with a caveat; fully vaccinated doesn't mean `fully protected'.
While early data suggests that `fully vaccinated' individuals are far less likely to become infected, or if they do become infected - to develop serious disease - that protection isn't absolute. No vaccine is 100% protective in 100% of the recipients.
There is still a possibility that I could become infected, and even become ill enough to be hospitalized, or even die from COVID-19. Not a strong possibility, perhaps. But a real one.
So I won't be ditching the face covers and hand sanitizer anytime soon. I'll continue to avoid crowded, particularly indoor, spaces. And I accept that between waning immunity and the likely introduction of new variants, I'll probably need a booster shot within a year.
As time goes by, we should get a much clearer picture on how effective the COVID vaccines are in real-world settings, how long their protection lasts, and the impact that rising variants may have on them.
Yesterday the CDC published their first weekly update on COVID-19 Breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated individuals, as reported by state and local health departments. I'll have a brief postscript after the break.
COVID-19 Breakthrough Case Investigations and Reporting
This page provides information and resources to help public health departments and laboratories investigate and report COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases.
CDC is leading multiple vaccine effectiveness studies to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are working as expected. In addition, CDC is coordinating with state and local health departments to investigate SARS-CoV-2 infections among people who received COVID-19 vaccine and identify patterns or trends in:
- Patient characteristics, such as age or underlying medical conditions
- The specific vaccine that was administered
- Specific SARS-CoV-2 variants that causes the infection
Establishing a vaccine breakthrough case definition
A person who has SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen detected on a respiratory specimen collected ≥14 days after completing the primary series of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
State health departments report vaccine breakthrough cases to CDC. CDC monitors reported cases for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage.
To the fullest extent possible, respiratory specimens that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA are collected for genomic sequencing to identify the virus lineage that caused the infection.
In the coming weeks, CDC will transition from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases to focus on identifying and investigating only vaccine breakthrough infections that result in hospitalization or death. This shift will help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.
Developing a data access and management system for COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases
COVID-19 Vaccines are Effective
- Vaccine breakthrough cases occur in only a small percentage of vaccinated persons. To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections.
- COVID-19 vaccines are effective. CDC recommends that all eligible people get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is available to them.
- CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people continue take steps to protect themselves and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, maintaining an appropriate social distance from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing their hands often.
Despite the caveats and likely limitations of the vaccine, I'm quite happy to have received mine, and hope the roll out and uptake continues to be strong.
Whether COVID vaccines can get us back to a pre-2020 state of normalcy is uncertain - particularly given whatever new threats may emerge - but we stand a much better chance of achieving an acceptable `new normal' with them, than we do without them.