You're More Likely to Get COVID After Vaccination If You're Over This Age

The CDC says this age group is most susceptible to breakthrough infections.

With a full quarter of Americans fully vaccinated as of this week, there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel. But for some, the recent success of the vaccine rollout has been eclipsed by reports of breakthrough cases, rare instances in which people contract COVID at least two weeks after they're fully vaccinated. As of Apr. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports of over 5,800 such cases. While the CDC told Best Life via email that "no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics," certain age groups have thus far caught COVID after vaccination at higher rates than others. Read on to find out if you're in the higher-risk demographic, and for more on the vaccine, Pfizer Caused This Reaction in Half of Recipients, New Study Says.

Breakthrough cases are more likely if you're 60 or over.

A senior man sits on a couch wrapped in a blanket while touching his forehead and feeling for a fever, suffering from COVID symptoms

While anyone can experience a breakthrough COVID infection, the CDC explains that 40 percent of the reported new COVID cases among fully-vaccinated individuals involved patients who were 60 years of age or older. However, age is just one of many factors in breakthrough cases that the health authority is currently monitoring as new data becomes available. They are also "clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage," they shared.

When analyzed by gender, they also found that "65 percent of the people experiencing a breakthrough infection were female." However, several reports have established that women have been getting vaccinated at notably higher rates than men. And for more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

There have been hospitalizations and deaths as a result.

Man and woman, senior man lying in hospital bed because of coronavirus infection, female doctor is giving medicine to a patient.

The CDC's report on these 5,800 breakthrough cases is the first formal recognition from the authority that the vaccines do not fully prevent hospitalizations or death. The CDC shared that "seven percent of people with breakthrough infections were known to be hospitalized and 74 (one percent) died."

"COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. All of the available vaccines have been proven effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths," the CDC said via email. However, due to these rare instances of breakthrough cases, the health authority still recommends taking continued precautions. These include mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, and washing hands both frequently and thoroughly. And for more vaccine news from the CDC, The CDC Says These 3 Side Effects Mean Your Vaccine Is Working.

Breakthrough cases happen with all vaccines.

Nurse gives senior adult healthcare worker the Covid-19 vaccine

In light of the CDC's report, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, pointed out during an Apr. 12 press briefing that breakthrough cases are a common phenomenon across vaccines types. "We see this with all vaccines in clinical trials. And in the real world, no vaccine is 100 percent efficacious or effective, which means that you will always see breakthrough infections regardless of the efficacy of your vaccine," he explained.

In other words, while breakthrough cases are far from ideal, they're not a design flaw of the COVID vaccine specifically.

Herd immunity will help us beat breakthrough cases.

A female healthcare workers fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine

If all of this seems a bit daunting—after all, who doesn't want to finally throw away their mask collection?—the good news is that breakthrough cases should decline significantly as overall vaccination rates rise.

"As long as the virus is not circulating and there's a high enough vaccine immunity in the community, then the risk is minimal, but if there is ongoing transmission at high levels, it's still possible to get infected," Jill Weatherhead, MD, an assistant professor of adult and pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, told NPR. "So that risk is still there and as we get more people vaccinated and the community spread goes down, the risk of breakthrough infections goes down significantly," she added. And for more on what to expect from the vaccine, Be Prepared for This the Night You Get Your COVID Vaccine, Doctors Warn.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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