Almost 6,000 “breakthrough cases” of Americans becoming infected with the coronavirus despite vaccination have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – far less than 1% of the 76 million Americans who are fully vaccinated.
The CDC, in an email to USA TODAY, said almost 400 of the 5,800 cases required hospitalization and 74 died. More than 40% of the infections were in people 60 or over, 65% were female, and 29% were asymptomatic, the CDC said.
“All of the available vaccines have been proven effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said. “However, like is seen with other vaccines, we expect thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”
Infections despite vaccination were anticipated – the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have proved to be more than 90% effective and the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine about 70%. But no vaccine is 100% effective, experts say.
The CDC still recommends that people who have been fully vaccinated take precautions in public places, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and washing their hands often.
“Vaccine breakthrough infections make up a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated,” Nordlund said. “CDC recommends that all eligible people get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is available to them.”
Pfizer CEO says vaccine booster shot likely needed within 12 months
People will probably need a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech within 12 months of being fully vaccinated, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Thursday. Annual shots may also be needed, Bourla said.
Pfizer previously announced that data from its clinical trial showed the vaccine to be highly effective six months after the second dose. The data was based on more than 12,000 vaccinated participants. It was too soon to examine the effectiveness of the vaccine beyond six months.
J&J vaccine pause problematic for Florida’s marginalized populations
The pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a bump in the road to full vaccination for health care workers relying on the one-dose shot to vaccinate Florida’s more than 100,000 farmworkers before they begin migrating north. The Healthcare Network, which reached more than 430 farmworkers Saturday in Immokalee with the one-shot, will now rely on the two-dose Moderna vaccine.
“Ensuring patients return for shot two is a major concern for organizations working with marginalized and underserved populations who struggle with poor access to transportation or cannot easily leave work,” said Gabrielle O’Boyle, a network spokeswoman.
California opens up vaccinations to all adults
California and Washington opened up vaccines to all adults Thursday. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also urged all schools in the state to reopen, saying there are no health barriers to getting the state’s 6.2 million public school students back into classrooms. California’s COVID-19 infections continue to drop and more residents are being vaccinated. The state’s decentralized education system, however, lets the 1,200 school districts govern themselves.
Blocking middle seats on airplanes reduces the risk of COVID-19 exposure, according to a study released Wednesday by the CDC. The research, done in conjunction with Kansas State University, found a 23% to 57% reduction in exposure to “viable” virus particles when middle seats are vacant.
The conclusion: “Physical distancing of airplane passengers, including through policies such as middle seat vacancy, could provide additional reductions in risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft.” Airlines have abandoned the pandemic practice of blocking seats to maintain social distance between travelers.
Delta Air Lines is the only U.S. carrier still blocking middle seats in economy, and that practice will end May 1. Southwest stopped blocking seats Dec. 1. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has repeatedly said there is no way to keep passengers 6 feet apart on a plane, and chief communication officer Josh Earnest said last summer that blocking seats is a public relations strategy, not a safety strategy.
A pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should continue until more is known about a rare vaccine side effect, a federal advisory committee decided Wednesday. The committee will meet again within a week to 10 days to evaluate more data that is expected to become available. The extremely rare blood clots have been reported in seven of the 7.2 million Americans who have gotten the J&J vaccine. The recent six cases were reported in women ages 18 to 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. One woman died and three remained hospitalized.
There was some concern the pause might harm those most in need of the vaccine as J&J only requires one shot and is easier to store and transport than the other two authorized vaccines. But the committee noted continuing the pause would not significantly affect the ability to vaccinate Americans.
The J&J vaccine so far makes up less than 5% of shots administered in the United States. The two other vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have not had such effects.