3 in 4 Fully Vaccinated People Who Get Severe COVID Have This in Common
New data from the CDC shows a similarity among many breakthrough COVID infections.
The U.S. has really opened back up over the last month, and fully vaccinated individuals have been told it's safe to live their lives, essentially as they had been pre-pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been encouraging fully vaccinated individuals to "resume activities that they did prior to the pandemic," but there is still a very small risk that you could get infected with COVID even once you've been fully vaccinated. While many of these cases—known as a "breakthrough infections"—end up being symptom-free, some vaccinated people are more at risk for severe outcomes.
According to new data from the CDC, a little more than three in four fully vaccinated people who end up getting severe COVID are 65 years or older. The CDC says that more than 4,100 individuals have been hospitalized or died with COVID in the U.S. as of June 21, despite being fully vaccinated. There were 3,907 hospitalizations and 750 deaths in people who were two weeks or more out from the final dose of their COVID vaccine. The CDC's data shows that 76 percent of these severe breakthrough cases were in individuals 65 years or older.
Older adults were also at high risk of severe COVID, vaccination status notwithstanding. According to the latest data from the CDC, nearly 80 percent of the more than 471,000 COVID deaths in the U.S. have been among people 65 years or older.
The CDC warned early that breakthrough infections after vaccination were possible, as the vaccines are intended to prevent severe cases or death most of all. The latest data has found that both Pfizer and Moderna are around 95 percent effective against symptomatic COVID infections, while Johnson & Johnson is around 66 percent effective, per CNBC. Of course, none are 100 percent foolproof.
"COVID-19 vaccines are effective," the CDC states on its website. But some individuals who are "fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it."
A CDC study published in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in May found that Pfizer and Moderna are 94 percent effective against COVID-19 hospitalization among fully vaccinated adults 65 years or older. They are 64 percent effective among partially vaccinated adults in the same demographic.
The good news is, breakthrough infections are rare. "Vaccine breakthrough cases occur in only a small percentage of vaccinated people," the CDC reassures. Only a little more than 4,100 breakthrough cases have occurred out of more than 150 million people in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated—that's .003 percent of the fully vaccinated population.
And while some of these breakthrough infections will still lead to hospitalization or death, "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," the CDC says.
The CDC has stopped counting every single breakthrough infection, since they are both rare and typically asymptomatic. But the agency is continuing to collect and analyze data on breakthrough infections that lead to hospitalization or death.
"Data on patients with vaccine breakthrough infection who were hospitalized or died will be updated regularly," the CDC says. "Studies are being conducted in multiple U.S. sites that will include information on all vaccine breakthrough infections regardless of clinical status to supplement the national surveillance."