The CDC Says People Who Get COVID After Vaccination Have This in Common

Breakthrough cases are rare, but they do happen. Here's what to expect if it happens to you.

Nearly half the U.S. population has had at least one COVID vaccine dose, putting us ever closer to our goal of herd immunity from the virus. And while the vaccines themselves have exceptional efficacy rates, there will inevitably be a small percentage of recipients who will contract COVID after vaccination if exposed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that these are called "vaccine breakthrough cases," and they're an expected part of any vaccine rollout. Thankfully, there's good news for those who do contract a breakthrough case. Most vaccinated COVID patients have one thing in common—and it could make all the difference in how they fare. Read on to find out what the CDC says about getting COVID after vaccination, and for more on breakthrough infections, Dr. Fauci Says This Is How You Can Catch COVID Even If You're Vaccinated.

People with breakthrough infections usually have a less severe case.


Portrait of woman with red hair wearing protective face mask outdoor and smiling in camera, looking at camera.

There's some good news if you do happen to come down with a breakthrough case of COVID: it's less likely to be severe, the CDC says. "Even though a small percentage of fully vaccinated people will get sick, vaccination will protect most people from getting sick," the health authority explains. "There also is some evidence that vaccination may make illness less severe in people who get vaccinated but still get sick."

In fact, 29 percent of patients with breakthrough cases have been found to be "completely asymptomatic," CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said on the TODAY show on Thursday. And for more COVID news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Some rare breakthrough cases will result in hospitalization or death.


In the Hospital Sick Male Patient Sleeps on the Bed. Heart Rate Monitor Equipment is on His Finger.

Unfortunately, not all breakthrough cases will be mild or asymptomatic. The CDC acknowledges that "Some fully vaccinated people will still be hospitalized and die. However, the overall risk of hospitalization and death among fully vaccinated people will be much lower than among people with similar risk factors who are not vaccinated."

But just how common are these more severe cases? The CDC reports that "seven percent of people with breakthrough infections were known to be hospitalized and 74 (one percent) died" as of Apr. 13. And for more on the COVID vaccine, Pfizer CEO Says This Is Exactly When You'll Need Another COVID Vaccine.

Those with breakthrough cases are also less likely to transmit the virus.


millenial friends taking selfie smiling behind face masks

Current research also indicates that patients with breakthrough COVID cases are not only "less symptomatic," but also "less likely to transmit" the virus, Walensky said Thursday. However, she added that more data is still needed to fully determine whether vaccinated individuals can spread the virus and highlighted the CDC's current recommendations to wear masks and socially distance until evidence is more conclusive.

Rates of breakthrough cases are still very low.


Woman wearing a mask

As of mid-April, the CDC reported just 5,814 breakthrough infections, accounting for just 0.008 percent of the 75 million full vaccinations achieved by that date. The health organization acknowledges this is an underestimate, but these exceedingly low numbers still suggest that contracting COVID following vaccination is rare and the vaccines are performing well in the real world.

According to Forbes, the White House plans to invest more resources toward the research of breakthrough infections, "with part of a $1.7 billion fund for studying the virus and its variants allocated in the American Rescue Act going to surveilling breakthrough infections." And for more on what to expect from your vaccination, Moderna's CEO Says There Could Be a Big Difference in Your Next Vaccine.

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