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How serious might COVID infections be for fully vaccinated people?

This article was published on
July 28, 2021

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SciLine reaches out to our network of scientific experts and poses commonly asked questions about newsworthy topics. Reporters can use these responses in news stories, with attribution to the expert.

SciLine reaches out to our network of scientific experts and poses commonly asked questions about newsworthy topics. Reporters can use these responses in news stories, with attribution to the expert.

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What our experts say

Context and background

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Media briefing

Media Release

Expert Comments: 

Dave O’Connor, PhD

As of now, the vaccines continue to offer outstanding protection from severe COVID-19 disease. This may change in the future as the virus evolves and the immunity conferred by vaccines wanes. We need to view this as a long battle between the virus and the countermeasures developed to fight it. Policies will need to change as new information comes to light. For example, the high amount of virus observed in some breakthrough infections with the Delta variant means that people who are vaccinated may need to be tested more frequently than previously thought if they develop symptoms, and they may need to wear masks more frequently to avoid spreading the virus to others who are susceptible.

Deborah Fuller, PhD

If a vaccinated person gets infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus will have a battle on its hands, since the vaccine has primed the vaccinated person with robust immune defenses that can shut down the virus before it has a chance to get very far. Even with the variants, the vaccines still have high efficacy in protecting people from severe disease and hospitalization. A vaccinated person may still get infected with COVID-19 but will likely experience no symptoms or only mild symptoms and will certainly recover more quickly than if they hadn’t been vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals who are immune compromised or have underlying conditions are vulnerable to getting the disease, but again, they are more likely to recover than someone with the same conditions who has not been vaccinated. In fact, for immune compromised people, getting vaccinated or not can make the difference between life and death.

Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH

There are more mild breakthrough infections among vaccinated people due to the Delta variant, likely because of higher circulating virus and higher viral loads with this variant.

Q&A

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