No one should be surprised, alarmed or discouraged about reports of so-called breakthrough cases in which fully vaccinated people contract COVID.
More importantly, no one should find validation for their choice to be among the unvaccinated in breakthrough cases.
Health officials have warned all along there would be breakthrough infections — no vaccine is bulletproof.
COVID-19 vaccines still are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“No vaccines are 100 percent effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people,” according to the CDC. “There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized or die from COVID-19.”
Still, every report of infection among the vaccinated ramps up fear and, in some cases, contributes to vaccine hesitancy.
Breakthrough cases are making headlines largely because of reporting bias, which has nothing to do with politics. It’s the man-bites-dog-syndrome. It’s a bias to report the most interesting or sensational news. That’s why a plane crash just about anywhere gets international attention and car crashes don’t, even though far more people die in cars.
“Breakthrough infections are not unique to COVID-19, but we are indeed noticing and talking more about breakthrough infections because we are testing people frequently for COVID-19 rather than other diseases, even those fully vaccinated, and therefore finding and tracking these cases more closely,” said Paulo Verardi, a virologist at the University of Connecticut, in a July 15 report to Vox, a general- interest news site.
Vaccine hesitancy — or obstinate refusal — is creating a perfect vicious cycle at a time when most of us are celebrating a return to normalcy brought about by mass inoculations. The delta variant is ripping through under-vaccinated populations because it’s finding welcoming hosts.
Overwrought reports of fully vaccinated people contracting COVID might inspire more vaccine hesitancy, which will lead to more breakthrough cases as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
Delta won’t be the last variant of COVID-19 we see, said infectious disease expert Dr. Leyla Best of UnityPoint Health, a network of hospitals, clinics and home care services in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, in an article on variants.
“That’s because every time the virus jumps to a new person, its chance of mutation increases,” Best said. “If the virus keeps running into vaccinated people, it hits a wall and can’t keep spreading. Decreasing the number of infections in a community is the best way to prevent new variants from developing.”
The truth is, evidence still shows COVID-19 vaccines slow transmission and reduce deaths and hospitalizations, which is important to prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed.
Vaccine hesitancy often is fueled by myths, misconceptions and outright hogwash.
Sometimes, paranoia is impregnable to fact and reason. But for what’s it’s worth, here’s what Johns Hopkins Medicine has to say about some of the most persistent COVID vaccine myths:
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine can affect women’s fertility.
Confusion arose when a false report surfaced on social media asserting the spike protein on this coronavirus was the same as another spike protein called syncitin-1 that’s involved in the growth and attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. The false report asserted getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman’s body to fight this different spike protein and affect her fertility.
Fact: The two spike proteins are different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods. Getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have a potentially serious impact on pregnancy and the mother’s health.
Myth: Researchers rushed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, so its effectiveness and safety cannot be trusted.
Fact: The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were created with a method that has been in development for years, so the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic. Also, developers didn’t skip any testing steps but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster. And, vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.
Fact: The COVID-19 vaccines are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines does enter cells but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA does its job to cause the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, and then it quickly breaks down — without affecting your DNA.
Myth: The messenger RNA technology used to make the COVID-19 vaccine is brand new.
Fact: The mRNA technology behind the new coronavirus vaccines has been in development for almost two decades. Vaccine makers created the technology to help them respond quickly to a new pandemic illness, such as COVID-19.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine was developed with or contains controversial substances.
Fact: The first two COVID-19 vaccines to be authorized by the FDA contain mRNA and other, normal vaccine ingredients, such as fats (which protect the mRNA), salts, as well as a small amount of sugar. These COVID-19 vaccines were not developed using fetal tissue, and they do not contain any material, such as implants, microchips or tracking devices.
Although perhaps not a myth, a risky assumption that recovering from COVID-19 means you’re immune and don’t need the vaccine might also help variants develop and spread.
In fact, “not enough information is available to say whether or for how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity),” according to Johns Hopkins.
“Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Several subjects in the Pfizer trial who were previously infected got vaccinated without ill effects. Some scientists believe the vaccine offers better protection for coronavirus than natural infection.”
• Laura Elder