CDC: Just 5,800 known "breakthrough" COVID infections in more than 66 million fully vaccinated people so far

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Rochelle Walensky exaggerated a few weeks ago when she said that vaccinated people “don’t carry the virus.”

But she didn’t exaggerate much.

Just 5,800 documented infections out of 66 million people — mostly resulting in mild cases — and Anthony Fauci is still iffy about the vaccinated going out to dinner. Good lord.

These so-called breakthrough cases, which are defined as positive Covid-19 test results received at least two weeks after patients receive their final vaccine dose, represent 0.008% of the fully vaccinated population

“The experience so far is that the vaccine remains highly effective and those who did have breakthrough infections have had very mild and manageable illnesses,” said Dr. Hirschwerk, who has treated at least one patient who fell ill with Covid-19 after being vaccinated. “This is really what we see each season with the influenza vaccine.”

Of the breakthrough cases identified by the CDC, more than 40% occurred in people older than 60, while 65% of the cases were in female patients, according to Tom Clark, leader of the vaccine evaluation team at the federal agency. The CDC found that 29% of breakthrough infections were asymptomatic and 7% of patients experiencing a breakthrough infection were hospitalized. So far, 74 people have died after experiencing breakthrough infections. The agency is expected to publish some of these findings next week.

Your odds of dying from COVID after being vaccinated are only slightly worse than one in a million, literally. Derek Thompson of the Atlantic did some math:

It happens, but it doesn’t happen often. Certainly not enough that Fauci’s recommending twentysomethings avoid driving up to 17 miles.

As for why breakthrough infections are happening at all, the WSJ offers a menu of possibilities. In some cases it may be that an older, sicker person’s immune system still struggles a bit with the virus even after getting a boost from vaccination. In others an infected person may end up inhaling an unusually large amount of viral particles that overwhelms their antibody defenses. In still other cases, it may be that someone’s been infected with a variant that does better against the vaccines than common COVID does. That’s the one alarming “breakthrough” scenario, since it’s the one with potential to infect many people and start a new national outbreak. There are documented cases from Israel of the South African variant breaking through Pfizer’s otherwise very strong vaccine, although the South African variant doesn’t seem to be especially contagious. And boosters tailored to that variant or any others that may emerge are in the works, in case they’re needed.

Karol Markowicz writes today that it’s time to start tuning out overcautious experts like Fauci and embrace post-vaccine liberation:

Fauci’s reign is coming to an end, and he probably senses it: A precipitous drop in the COVID-19 positivity rate, and loads more evidence, shows that the vaccines have done their job. It’s true that you may still get COVID-19 after vaccination, and we may get future upticks in cases, but the evidence is that vaccines are sending the death rates tumbling. That is what counts. Not cases, not exceptional reactions to the jabs, not theoretical risks and worries about emerging strains.

The experts who keep pushing more masks, more distancing and more lockdowns, even after vaccination, are doing a greater disservice than the conspiracy theorists who think the jabs implant government chips in our brains. We know to dismiss the latter. But the former are constantly on our televisions making no sense and refusing to say that we can move on from this pandemic.

We can move on, and we should. Be sane. You — we — can defeat Fauci’s nonsense: by getting the jabs and then living life as it’s meant to be lived.

Yes, but it’d be nice if we had allies in the media to carry that message forward. The press is very reluctant to get on the wrong side of medical experts and not just for understandable reasons like being wary of second-guessing an eminent scientist like Fauci. I think they fall into the trap of playing mind games with the public to shape people’s behavior the way Fauci himself does, hyping the risk from COVID in certain respects to incentivize people to keep taking precautions. Thompson spotted an example in the coverage of today’s otherwise fantastically hopeful CDC news:

The takeaway from the CDC data shouldn’t be that even vaccinated people remain at risk of infection. It’s that the risk is vanishingly small, enough so that there’s simply no good reason for them to take aggressive precautions anymore. Between the press’s habit of exaggerating risk in the name of encouraging safe behavior and their eternal lust for sensationalism, it sometimes feels like every last one of America’s 5,800 documented breakthrough infections will end up being covered individually and lavishly by local media. No wonder a meaningful number of Americans — four percent — think death is a common side effect of COVID vaccines.