Q&A – Is It Time To Worry About Breakthrough Cases?


Photo: MEGAN JELINGE/AFP/Getty Images

Today’s entry: What’s your thought about the rise in cases with people who’ve been vaccinated? Should we be concerned?

Bottom Line: Anecdotally, yeah maybe. In the last week, there have been six people I know who’ve been fully vaccinated who’ve contracted COVID-19. Then there are the high-profile breakthroughs like the Yankees who just had five fully vaccinated players test positive.  Then there’s what’s happening in states like Florida. On July 1st, we were pacing around 1,200 cases per day. Last week that jumped to 6,100 per day. This includes the semi-ominous fact that Saturday, the last day we have a report for, we had the highest number of new cases, over 8,000. If 54% of Florida’s population is vaccinated today and we’re pacing the same number of cases as when it was 1%, yeah, it’s something to think about. When it comes to so-called COVID-19 “breakthrough cases”, the problems are two-fold. First, the data gathering stinks. 

The CDC’s keeping tabs on breakthrough cases, but only to a point, and the data is already old by the time we get it. And what we don’t get isn’t all that helpful. Here’s the deal. The CDC’s receiving breakthrough data from 48 states, which is obviously incomplete and only making available breakthrough cases that have resulted in hospitalizations or deaths. And the most recent data is from June 12th. All of this is to say what we’re being provided is an incomplete and narrow view of what’s happening. According to the most recent reporting, the CDC through two weeks ago had documented 5,492 breakthrough cases that resulted in hospitalizations or death.

FIU’s Dr. Aileen Marty said, "It isn’t easy to obtain those data because (1), we are not necessarily testing all breakthrough cases, and (2), they are not published on a per-state basis in a timely fashion. To know if someone has Delta Variant, you need to perform special Nucleic Acid tests. This detailed testing is NOT widely available. We need to request that CDC release official primers for Delta Variant to labs that are currently doing PCR tests or allow for sequencing to be done as a CLIA test and not as a research procedure". That’s a scientific way of saying we don’t really know what’s real with breakthrough cases. 

It was just on Friday in my top three takeaways I said, "COVID-19's variants are the new seasonal flu". Let’s say COVID-19's variants have superseded the 100-year run of the H1N1 virus to become the new seasonal flu. According to CDC studies, the average efficacy of the traditional flu vaccine has been 43%. The highest year for efficacy on record is 60%, or lower than the least effective vaccine for COVID-19 on the market at the onset. The worst year for flu vaccine efficacy, a paltry 10%. So, what’s history tell us? Most people who get a flu vaccine will catch the flu if they’re exposed to it.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

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