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Breakthrough infections: How common are they? How do you know if you have one?

Breakthrough infections might be more common than we think because of poor reporting

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Cars lined up for COVID-19 testing.

Three cars are lined up for COVID-19 testing at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated may be more common than we think due to poor testing and data reporting, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated may be more common than we think due to poor testing and data reporting, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Gottlieb, a member of Pfizer’s board, recently told CNBC that breakthrough infections will often occur in people who are about one year removed from full vaccination.

  • Booster shots, he said, offer an “almost immediate” restoration of the antibody protection, though, protecting people from COVID-19 infection.

Gottlieb told CNBC some COVID-19 breakthrough infections are not being reported, though.

  • “At this point I think we need to accept that there’s a lot of breakthrough infections happening, particularly people who are out a significant portion of time from their original vaccination,” Gottlieb said. “There’s probably more infection happening among the vaccinated population, more spread happening in that population, the unboosted portion of that population, than what we’re picking up because we’re just not systematically tracking this.”

Experts have suggested breakthrough infections will become more common as more individuals become vaccinated. For examples, scientists told Roll Call, a data-driven political news site, in September that most people will be infected by COVID-19 at some point.

  • “It’s likely that everybody will probably get infected with COVID-19 (at some point) because it’s an endemic respiratory virus. The goal is to make sure that at that time, that infection occurs after you’ve been vaccinated so it’s mild,” Amesh Adalja, a doctor and infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Roll Call.

But new research suggests that fully vaccinated people don’t get as sick as unvaccinated people when they’re infected with COVID-19.

  • “Although breakthrough infection increased risk of death, vaccination remained protective against death in persons who became infected during the Delta surge,” the researchers wrote in a new report, which was published in the medical journal Science.