Breakthrough COVID-19 Cases: What You Should Know

breakthrough covid cases

You have been hearing about breakthrough COVID-19 cases in the news. A breakthrough case happens when a vaccinated person gets infected with the COVID-19 virus. It may seem scary, but once you put the breakthrough cases in perspective, they actually do not account for a large percentage of cases at all. What’s more, these breakthrough cases rarely cause sickness or hospitalization, and may not even be a very infectious version of the virus.

President Biden announced this week that 70 percent of U.S. adults have received one dose of the vaccine. Experts and leaders are hopeful that more Americans will get vaccinated.  

Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 breakthrough cases and why they are happening in vaccinated people. 

COVID-19 Breakthough Cases: What to Know

  • It is normal with any vaccine to have breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals. Less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized with or died from COVID-19. And the total number of breakthrough cases represents less than .08 percent of people who’ve been vaccinated since January. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are over 90 percent effective. 
  • While vaccinated people with breakthrough infections will likely not get sick, they can still pass the virus on to others.
  • However, “vaccinated people are far less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people,” says Brown University School of Public Health Dean Ashish Jha.
  • Vaccines and masks are still the best protections against getting the virus.
  • The exact number of breakthrough cases is unknown, since many have been unreported.

Graphic: Perentage of COVID-19 Cases Among Vaccinated and Not Vaccinated People in U.S. States

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