Should we be worried about COVID-19 infections after being vaccinated? – .

Should we be worried about COVID-19 infections after being vaccinated? – .

Louis-Philippe Pichette was vaccinated against COVID-19 at a clinic at LaRonde amusement park on July 30, 2021 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

Let’s be clear about one thing up front: people who are vaccinated are not as likely to contract and spread the coronavirus as people who are not vaccinated.

Not even from a distance.

What is true is that in the rare event that a person has a breakthrough infection, they can spread the virus just as easily. It is very different. And that leaves the false impression that COVID-19 vaccines don’t work.

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In fact, vaccines work remarkably well, even against the new curved balls thrown at them.

Initially, studies showed that COVID-19 vaccines were up to 95% effective in preventing symptomatic illnesses.

In the real world, that number – unsurprisingly – has dropped slightly, to around 89% from what we now call the Alpha variant.

Against the more transmissible Delta, efficacy is still impressive at 79%, according to figures from Public Health England, which performs one of the most extensive post-market surveillance in the world.

Vaccines are not perfect. No one claimed they would be.

You can, in rare cases, become infected with the coronavirus if you have had two injections. You can, theoretically, infect others.

But, again, we need to keep these unusual events in perspective.

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The reality is that, in the vast majority of cases, unvaccinated people infect unvaccinated people. Sometimes they also infect people who have been vaccinated.

And, yes, vaccinated people can infect unvaccinated people. It is not clear how likely this is.

As for vaccinated people infecting other vaccinated people? It’s about as likely as spotting a white moose.

What we need to understand a little better is why these revolutionary infections are happening. (They are called “breakthroughs” because they cross the protection offered by vaccines.)

Behavior certainly matters. If you are in a crowd with a lot of infected people, the chances are worse. The dose also matters: If you interact with someone who has a very high viral load, it also increases your risk. The same goes for the Delta variant, which is more contagious.

Still, we shouldn’t be unduly alarmed by research showing, for example, that vaccinated people have as much virus in their noses as unvaccinated people. We have all kinds of bugs in our noses all the time; it is a key part of our immune system. This does not indicate contagiousness or danger.

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We know that when vaccinated people are infected, they are less likely to develop symptoms, be hospitalized, or die.

Don’t be fooled by the “news” that infections and hospitalizations are on the rise among those vaccinated. Of course they are. Lots of people get vaccinated. But, relatively, far fewer vaccinated people end up sick or hospitalized and, here, relativity matters.

The pandemic has turned into an unvaccinated pandemic.

Recent figures from Ontario tell this story eloquently. Between June 12 and July 21, the unvaccinated accounted for 95.7% of new COVID-19 cases, 97.4% of hospitalizations, 99.5% of intensive care admissions and 95.8% of deaths. (These numbers come from the extraordinary COVID-19 data analyzer, Dr. Jennifer Kwan.)

The data from the United States on breakthrough infections is also quite revealing. Between January 1 and April 30, there were 10,262 cases of major infections recorded among 11.8 million infections.

This is the story we need to remember: If you are fully vaccinated, you have a minimal risk of getting infected, getting sick, or dying from COVID-19.

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This is why there is such pressure on vaccination warrants (making vaccination compulsory for certain workers, such as nurses and personal support workers), vaccination certificates (proof of vaccination that you allows you to visit public spaces, including restaurants and sports venues) and vaccination passports (vaccination documentation that allows you to travel to other countries).

So if vaccines work so well, and many people are now vaccinated (about 23 million Canadians have both vaccines), why are public health officials reluctant to lift restrictions and in some cases still urge people vaccinated to wear masks?

It’s not because the vaccines don’t work. This is because we want to protect vulnerable people, especially those who cannot yet get vaccinated, such as children, and those who are immunocompromised.

The real breakthrough we need to be concerned about is convincing a large enough percentage of the population – 80% or more – to get vaccinated so that we can virtually stop the spread of the coronavirus in our communities.

We need to focus on the six million Canadians who still have not been vaccinated, and not on the small number of vaccines who could theoretically spread the virus.

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