Why are vaccinated people still getting COVID?

The majority of vaccinated people who are getting COVID-19 are getting infected with the new, highly contagious Delta variant.

When the vaccines were manufactured (back in 2020), the Delta variant was not around yet. The vaccines were designed to protect against the original COVID-19 variant. The Delta variant is slightly different from the original. And while the vaccines still work extremely well, they seem to be slightly less protective against the Delta variant.

How does a vaccine protect you?

When someone is vaccinated, the immune system responds to the vaccine and produces antibodies. The antibodies stay in your blood. When you are exposed to the virus these antibodies bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting the cells in your body.  

Are the Covid-19 vaccines good?

The COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be highly effective (> 90% for both the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines) compared to the seasonal flu vaccine (<50%) that many of us take every year.

The good news is that although some vaccinated people are getting infected with COVID-19, the symptoms are less severe resulting in less hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccinated people also have lower viral loads and recover faster.  Unvaccinated people, in contrast, are significantly more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.

But it is important to remember that vaccinated people who are infected with the virus are contagious and can transmit it to others, even with mild or no symptoms, especially if it’s the Delta variant.

What can you do?

If you are unvaccinated, the best thing to do is to get the vaccine. This will maximize your protection, as well as protect those around you. Even if you have breakthrough infection, your symptoms are likely to be less severe and there is significantly less chance of hospitalization or death.

Whether you are vaccinated or not, you should be careful, wear a mask and practice social distancing when possible.

If you want to know more about the Delta variant and breakthrough infections, check out these links from the CDC and GAVI

Last update: 09.08.2021, 03:22pm ET

Science review: BK, ERS