The Shock and Reality of Catching Covid After Being Vaccinated

Yves here. It should not be surprising to learn that some people get Covid even after being fully vaccinated. To put it bluntly: “What about ‘91% efficacy’ (per Pfizer) don’t you understand?” 91% is not 100%. But we had a reader who said she was trying to keep tabs on breakthrough cases, so we thought this piece might be of broad interest.

Having said that, US officials have done an appallingly poor job of educating the public and have made the dangerous mistake of overpromising. Less than a month ago, the CDC’s head Rochelle Wolensky made the gobsmacking claim that “don’t carry the virus” and don’t get sick.

And it’s not just Walensky who is engaging in this sort of misleading messaging. The TV here is often to ME TV, the old people’s channel, which is what my mother mainly watches. Thanks to ME TV ads, I know way too much about pricey drugs like Ozempic and Rybelsis, aa well as the local ambulance chasers.

On the 14th, she had the sound on (she sometimes has it off and just reads subtitles). I heard my first Covid public service announcement ad. It was a Q&A format, with only two questions. The first was on whether it was possible to contract Covid from the vaccine. The answer was no because it contains no live virus.

I don’t recall the precise formulation of the second question, but the answer was a clear statement: Yes, the vaccine will prevent you from getting a Covid infection.

Even our woman-of-few-words aide (who is a certified nursing assistant) that day reacted strongly and out of character talked back to the TV: “No, that’s not right.”

Not only do we have many examples of breakthrough cases, as you’d expect given the large number of vaccinations so far, we also have cases of outbreaks in long term care facilities, where vaccination rates have been high. For instance, see this April 10 report of 22 outbreaks in facilities in the Dallas area. A doctor in the Dallas area elaborated on the significance:

All of the long term care – nursing homes – rehab centers in the Dallas area – ALL OF THEM – are approaching 98% vaccination rates – and we are well out – 6-12 weeks ago – they got vaccinated first. There are but a handful of religious hold outs and they are apparently in very strict isolation.

Now given the high level of holdouts among care workers (in New York State, the level is about 40%, as an indicator), and that quite a few work at more than one facility, they would seem to be the most likely culprits for introducing the contagion.

Separately, a disturbing feature of this piece is that it asserts that vaccine-created immunity is likely to be superior to that of getting the disease. IMHO this is another terrible way to sell getting vaccinated. You get vaccinated not to wind up in the hospital and maybe die. Period. It’s a far better way to get Covid immunity than contracting the disease. And it is not crazy to think that the vaccine reduces severity of other bad outcomes. But the disgrace in the US is that we are doing terrible follow up. It’s all ad hoc and far too reliant on patient and sometimes doctor initiated accounts.

The fact is no one yet knows how long the vaccine-induced immunity lasts. While it is hard to prove a negative, Lambert and I have been following studies and the news closely. We have yet to see anything beyond expert intuition supporting the claim that the vaccine-generated immunity will last longer than that of getting infected.

Pfizer has only ventured that the vaccine is effective for “up to” six months. Both Pfizer and Moderna are telling the public to expect to take boosters annually. By contrast, large-scale data from the UK, the only country to test citizens on a regular, systematic basis, has led researchers to say that immunity from contracting Covid lasted at least six to eight months. Vaccine-created immunity may prove to be more durable, but to keep presenting that as yet another fact runs the risk of feeding more skepticism if that proves not to be true.

By Steven Findlay. Originally published at Kaiser Health News

Robin Hauser, a pediatrician in Tampa, Florida, got Covid in February. What separates her from the vast majority of the tens of millions of other Americans who have come down with the virus is this: She got sick seven weeks after her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I was shocked,” said Hauser. “I thought: ‘What the heck? How did that happen?’ I now tell everyone, including my colleagues, not to let their guard down after the vaccine.”

As more Americans every day are inoculated, a tiny but growing number are contending with the disturbing experience of getting Covid despite having had one shot, or even two.

In data released Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 5,800 people had fallen ill or tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks or more after they completed both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

A total of about 78 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.

These so-called breakthrough infections occurred among people of all ages. Just over 40% were in people age 60 or older, and 65% occurred in women. Twenty-nine percent of infected people reported no symptoms, but 7% were hospitalized and just over 1%, 74 people, died, according to the CDC.

Public health officials have said breakthrough infections were expected, since manufacturers have warned loudly and often that the vaccines are not 100% protective. The Pfizer and Moderna versions have consistently been shown to be above 90% effective, most recently for at least six months. Studies have also shown they are nearly 100% effective at ensuring that the small fraction of vaccinated patients who do contract the virus will not get severe cases or require hospitalization.

Still, people are usually shocked and befuddled when they become the rare breakthrough victim. After months of fear and taking precautions to avoid contracting Covid, they felt safe once they got their shots.

Hauser, 52, had stayed home from work to care for her kids, ages 21 and 16, both of whom had contracted the virus. She was confident she was protected. She was also taking care of her father, who has cancer.

“It’s a minor miracle that I didn’t infect him before I realized I, too, was sick,” Hauser said. In keeping with the virus’s fickle behavior, Hauser’s husband, Brian, who had not yet been vaccinated, also never got infected.

Masha Gessen, a staff writer for The New Yorker, completed the two-shot process in mid-February. A month later, Gessen fell ill and tested positive after both Gessen’s son and partner, Julia Loktev, had weathered bouts of Covid. The experience was “unsettling, even a bit traumatic,” Gessen said. Loktev’s illness occurred six days after her first dose.

“The psychological effect of getting the virus after a year of being very, very careful and getting vaccinated got to me,” Gessen, 54, said in an interview with KHN. “It took me about three weeks to feel back to normal.” Gessen wrote about the experience this month in The New Yorker.

Dr. Kami Kim, director of the infectious disease and international medicine division at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said physicians are equally disturbed when these cases crop up.

“All this, while anticipated, is definitely confusing and frustrating for people, both doctors and patients. We are all learning on the go and making judgments about what’s best for our patients — and ourselves,” Kim said.

Vaccine manufacturers said the number of breakthrough cases reported by the CDC was not surprising.

Moderna’s latest analysis of its vaccine clinical trial data shows 900 people got Covid after being vaccinated, consistent with 90% or more efficacy for the vaccine, company spokesperson Colleen Hussey said.

Pfizer spokesperson Jerica Pitts said the company would monitor trial participants for two years after their second dose to learn more about the Pfizer vaccine’s protection against Covid.

In their reporting, the CDC is defining a breakthrough case strictly as illness or a positive test two weeks or more after full vaccination. But tens of thousands of people who have had a first shot or are short of two weeks after their second shot are also getting infected.

Pfizer and Moderna report data showing up to 80% protection from infection two weeks or so after the first shot. But most experts believe protection ranges widely, from 50% to 80%, depending on the length of time after the shot and the individual variation that exists with any vaccine.

The second shot boosts immunity further but not for a few days, at minimum, and then builds over two weeks. And again, this could vary from person to person.

Leslie Fratkin, 60, a freelance photographer in New York City, got her second Pfizer dose March 12. So she was surprised when clear symptoms of covid showed up March 24 and she was quite sick at home for three days.

“You can’t print the words I uttered at the time,” she said.

The CDC advises people who get Covid after a first shot to get the second dose soon after recovery, with no minimum wait time specified. That’s a change from prevalent advice back in December and January, when some state health departments advised people to wait 90 days after a bout of Covid to get a first or second shot, and especially a second shot.

Driving this important change is mounting evidence from studies and experience indicating that immunity to infection conferred by the vaccines is stronger and possibly more “stable” over time than immunity derived from Covid infection.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policyat the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said further research and better public health guidance are urgently needed. For example, is a second dose even needed for people who get covid after the first dose, or does the infection itself serve as enough of an immune system booster? And if a second shot is recommended, what’s the optimal waiting period before getting it?

“These are important practical questions that need to be prioritized,” Osterholm said. “We are sort of flying blind now.”

Other countries have handled the second dose rollout differently.

In the U.K., health authorities delayed it up to 12 weeks, to stretch vaccine supply and prioritize getting at least one shot into more people’s arms more quickly. In Canada, a government vaccine advisory committee recommended April 7 that second doses be delayed up to four months.

At two press briefings this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a covid adviser to President Joe Biden, said that the number of breakthrough cases in the U.S. so far is not cause for alarm and that the administration will continue to monitor these instances closely.

One important line of investigation is how big a role variants or mutated versions of the initial coronavirus play in these breakthrough cases. Research suggests the current vaccines may be somewhat less effective against some new variants.

Martha Sharan, a CDC spokesperson, said the agency is now urging states to use genetic sequencing to test virus specimens from patients with breakthrough cases to identify variants. In Washington state, for instance, eight variants were detected in the genetic sequencing of nine breakout cases reported through April 3.

Today the Biden administration announced $1.7 billion in spending would be directed from the covid relief bill to help the CDC, states and other jurisdictions more effectively detect and track variants by scaling genomic sequencing efforts.

The CDC also has launched a national covid vaccine breakthrough database in which state health departments can store and manage data.

“We are behind on sequencing samples,” said Osterholm. “That will give us valuable information.”

KHN senior correspondent JoNel Aleccia contributed to this story.

Steven Findlay, a KHN contributing reporter, came down with covid 30 days after his first dose and 24 hours after his second dose.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    Just for the benefit of the dummies (raises hand), if you have a total of about 78 million Americans being fully vaccinated and a vaccine may have an efficacy rate of about 91%, does that mean that you will have about seven million Americans come down with Coronavirus from that group alone? If so, they should have really publicized this point so that people were not shocked by falling sick after wards.

    I will have to clarify that word ‘shocked’. You can be ‘surprised’ or you can be ‘shocked.’ Being surprised is knowing something is possible but if it happens, it is unexpected. An example of this is being laid off work. You know that it can happen so you are half-way ready for it. Being shocked is when you do not know that something is possible so when it happens, you are totally disorientated. Like being totally vaccinated but still getting this virus. Big difference between the two terms.

    1. Wellstone's Ghost

      I think a large percentage of people who get both shots but then get sick will feel ‘blindsided’ by the fact they got COVID.
      Washington state has recorded just over 200 post vaccination COVID infections.
      This seems to be a low enough percentage that its not making headlines.
      The PR right now is that if everyone would just get vaccinated we can return to normal.
      Sorry folks, normal went out the window last year.
      But the kids are back in school so everything is ok now.

    2. allan

      “does that mean”

      No, it does not. It means that compared to a similar population of unvaccinated (and never infected)
      people, the vaccinated group will have 91% fewer infections. (And, supposedly, 100% fewer deaths.)
      But that is in comparison with the control group, and how many of them get sick
      depends on what’s going on in the community or the environment they are exposed to, by choice or not.

      So, if the virus goes down to very low levels, the reduction in absolute illness among the vaccinated group
      will be numerically small, but in an environment where there is a lot of community transmission,
      it will be numerically large.

    3. Skk

      What allen said. This is a classic conditional probability question – given the chance of getting Covid is say .01% then the vaccinated ones chances are further reduced from that to .01 x (1-.9) Which is .001% Shockingly to me, it’s not easy to get an estimate for the first number, I just went thru this website questionnaire and for my upcoming hike, outdoors in my zip code, for 5 hours, likely to meet 200 people my chances of getting Covid if unvaccinated were .00001% ! Gee thanks.. it’s usually much simpler as an exam question… :-)

    4. GM

      Just for the benefit of the dummies (raises hand), if you have a total of about 78 million Americans being fully vaccinated and a vaccine may have an efficacy rate of about 91%, does that mean that you will have about seven million Americans come down with Coronavirus from that group alone?

      The question is over what time frame.

      The 91% efficacy rate is within the first couple months of vaccination. It will start going down from there.

      There have been studies now over 6 months of how antibodies decline after vaccination. And they do decline, with a half life of between 2 and 5 months.

      This means that in two to three years the protection from those vaccines will have decayed completely.

      But, of course, that is against the original strain. Antigen drift will have made it null a lot earlier than that.

      Both of these factors are why they are preparing people for annual boosters.

      Another unmentioned inconvenient truth is that all vaccines work worse in old people than in young people, that’s just the reality of overall age-related degeneration, the senescence of the immune system being a big part of it. And, of course, old people also happen to be most affected by COVID. So old people’s protection will last less than young people’s.

      Finally, not only are there “breakthrough” cases, a very very disturbing pattern is that there have been quite a few breakthrough clusters. That is not what you expect — if the vaccine protects at, say 90%, and you have a group of 40 people, you should see on average 4 infections among that group when everyone is exposed. Not 30+. As has been seen on multiple occasions now. In some cases it is variants, in others it is not clear what happened.

      The only real way out of this is elimination. But politicians and business interests will have none of it, so people will be getting sick and dying of this for decades to come.

  2. Winston Smith

    Public messaging was an issue from the start and will persist. Difficult as it would have been for any administration, the previous govt should have gotten behind Nancy Messonier’s message of february 25th (?) 2020.

    As for the lack of sequencing, it is irresponsible. The fear is that a highly contagious vaccine resistant variant will surface and we will be in an even worse situation than when the pandemic started. Global vaccination is the only solution

    1. campbeln

      Based on my (non-medical background) understanding, that’s never been achieved with a coronavirus.

      Further, there’s a financial incentive for yearly boosters and the political thrust seems to have been focused on supporting Pharma rather than public health, so… may the odds be ever in your favor I suppose…

      1. polecat

        What we got here is a failure to communicate to all the districts, those Hungered Blain$

        Go ahead Peaceful Keeper$, prick the other arm … I dares ya!

    2. GM

      Global vaccination is the only solution

      No, the only solution is eradication.

      But people have been very successfully brainwashed that this is not an option at this point by more than a year of propaganda.

  3. Ping

    An important unanswered question is what about the millions taking immune suppressant drugs, everything from RA to organ transplant. Apparently there is evidence that vaccination then does not produce sufficient antibodies and I notice some drug ads now state to tell your doctor if you have been or plan to be vaccinated (with any vaccine). One of the questions on the questionnaire part handout immediately prior to injection asks if you are taking immune suppression drugs and one wonders if people on those medications were excluded from the approx `15K trial participants.

    1. Scott Schaefer

      Yes. At least in te case of the Moderna Pase III trial, these patients were excluded. From pg 45 of

      5.2 Exclusion Criteria

      11. Immunosuppressive or immunodeficient state, asplenia, recurrent severe infections ..
      12. Has received systemic immunosuppressants or immune-modifying drugs for >14 days in
      total within 6 months prior to Screening (for corticosteroids ≥ 20 mg/day of prednisone

      1. Kaleberg

        They basically excluded people with marginal immune systems (congenital, no spleen or as the result of radiation or the like) and people who have their immune systems suppressed (frequently due to organ transplants or chemotherapy). Vaccines require a working immune system to work.

        This is one of the reasons it helps to have most people vaccinated. Not everyone can be. Our town lost a woman with a transplant to measles a few years back, thanks to some anti-vax murderer.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There are plenty of people on immuo-suppressive drugs who have been told to take the vaccines. I know some personally who got 2 shots. Cancer survivors.

  4. mwbworld

    Yup. While I’m still waiting (this Saturday) to get my first dose – I’ve been trying to tell folks this to no avail. Plus the point that you do need to exercise some of the same precautions until most folks are vaccinated and the infections rates, etc. drop considerably more.

    On another note – you’re so right about MeTV. I only watch one thing Svengoolie (I love my horror hosts with sf/horror flicks) and even forwarding through those commercials on the DVR is cringe inducing!

  5. Ghost in the Machine

    I wonder what the stats are for people’s expectations regarding the flu vaccine? It seems that it is understood that it is imperfect and is hopefully biasing things more in your favor regarding both catching and fighting the disease if you get it.
    So, it is not like we don’t have any experience with a more nuanced view of what to expect from some vaccines.

  6. flora

    Driving this important change is mounting evidence from studies and experience indicating that immunity to infection conferred by the vaccines is stronger and possibly more “stable” over time than immunity derived from Covid infection.

    The word “possibly” in this statement is very important. They still don’t know.

    My new normal: I’ve stopped listening to Fauci and the CDC and other official voices. I don’t think that’s a good thing. But I’ve felt misled too many times, beyond what I’d pass off as “the fog of war” grappling with unknowns. sigh….

    1. Anonapet

      Does not make sense to me that creating immunity to a single part of the virus, the “spike”, is more duarable than the body’s immune response to the whole virus.

      The analogy is to antibiotics that kill in multiple ways so that multiple, simultaneous evasive mutations, extremely unlikely, would be required for bacteria to evade destruction.

      And then there’s the analogy to creating super-bacteria that are created by overuse of an antibiotic with a single killing mode that the bacteria evolves to survive.

      Of course time will tell but since I think I’ve already had Covid and since it seems Big Pharma may be trying to create a self-licking ice cream cone, I won’t allow them to use my body as a breeding vessel with a yearly license renewal via boosters.

      1. Adam1

        It makes sense if you understand how the immune system responds and develops last immunity. While your body does have several mechanisms and layers that it uses to prevent and fight infection, the two most important to fighting established infections are your T-cells and B-cells. When both of these cells first receive the message that they need to fight a specific infection they start to divide and create more T and B cells. The new cells have a choice, take the form of an active infection fighting cell or become a memory cell. It is these memory T and B cells which compose the strongest part of long term immunity to specific infections and outlive the antibodies the fighting B-cells will produce. When a future re-infection tries to invade your body, when these memory cells encounter the disease they will actually signal your non-memory T & B cells to not respond, they have it all under control.

        Now the important part… the number of memory cells created can vary between people AND the science indicates that the stronger the infection the more likely one’s body will respond with more fighting cells and fewer memory cells. This is one of the reasons so many vaccinations require a series of shots. They want to give you the smallest dose possible to trigger T & B cell division, but not so strong a dose that the body starts producing fewer memory cells. And then overtime build up a strong stock of memory cells.

        So your body’s natural immune response may or may not have left you with sufficient long term memory cells to fight re-infection whereas the very targeted series of vaccine doses is designed to maximize memory cell production.

          1. Adam1

            Nobody including the science is not saying natural immunity can’t leave you with good immunity, it’s just that obtaining natural immunity has far more uncontrolled for variables that will impact exactly how “good” that long term effect is for individuals.

            Your immune system may respond well and create lots of CD8+ T-cells to fight covid-19, but if it doesn’t also create sufficient memory cell versions of that CD8+ (and other targeted T and B type cells), then your body’s ability to respond to potential re-infection will wane quite quickly because your body does not keep lots of the active fighting forms of T & B cells around when they are not needed.

            This is where vaccination has an upper hand because you can better control for the immune response and work to maximize the memory cell production. Per the study you sited the Pfizer vaccine should prove pretty good against the variants as it is supposed to create a strong CD8 T-cell response.



  7. bassmule

    Yes, it’s the NY Times. Even so…

    from the story:
    To take just one example, major media outlets trumpeted new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid. That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000. The chances of getting a version any worse than a common cold are even more remote.

    But they are not zero. And they will not be zero anytime in the foreseeable future. Victory over Covid will not involve its elimination. Victory will instead mean turning it into the sort of danger that plane crashes or shark attacks present — too small to be worth reordering our lives.

    That is what the vaccines do. If you’re vaccinated, Covid presents a minuscule risk to you, and you present a minuscule Covid risk to anyone else. A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.

    It’s true that experts believe vaccinated people should still sometimes wear a mask, partly because it’s a modest inconvenience that further reduces a tiny risk — and mostly because it contributes to a culture of mask wearing. It is the decent thing to do when most people still aren’t vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated, a mask is more of a symbol of solidarity than anything else.

    Irrational COVID fears

    1. Laura in So Cal

      I hope they are monitoring all these “breakthrough” cases for the potential ADE. We are essentially in large-scale clinical trials for all the COVID vaccines so this is the time to take a look at the outcomes.

      “Antibody-dependent enhancement and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and therapies” September 2020″

      However, based on IM Doc’s article yesterday, I’m not hopeful.

    2. Synoia

      major media outlets

      Paragons of the truth, or use any fragment of “news” to boost the viewing numbers?

    3. Adam

      There’s plenty of good news about vaccine numbers, but I wish the NY Times at least had enough statistical literacy to interpret it correctly.

      “That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000.”

      That’s not what it means. That means that there’s a 1 in 11,000 rate (not even chance, just rate; there’s more work that would be needed to calculate any metric of chance) of getting Covid and getting tested assuming someone is fully vaccinated. I’d imagine most people getting tested have symptoms and many asymptomatic people (and maybe even some symptomatic people) don’t get tested. Testing everyone would be a baseline threshold for the assumption being made.

      My father is a physician and I had trouble trying to explain to him what the vaccine trials actually showed and did not show statistically, so this type of reporting doesn’t help.

        1. bassmule

          Better math:

          “This was a lot of words to say: this was very, very encouraging news about the vaccines. Here was a worst-case scenario: elderly, congregate living, a variant with mutations associated with partial immune escape. And still, the vaccine was protective at a level that stood up to the trials which represented a much better scenario. If this vaccine was going to fail to be as protective as the trials, especially against immune escape variants, this was the stress test that could give us an indicator.”

          Facts Are Pieces Of A Puzzle

    4. campbeln

      I care not about the mortality of COVID at this point.

      I do care about the morbidity.

      None of what you say above belays my fears on morbidity. And thanks to USAUSAUSA and the fact that the only guaranteed immunity conveyed by any of the vaccines is the liability shield to Pharma… Should that morbidity monster bite, like the First Responders and Gulf War Syndrome victims, I’ll be on my own.

      1. John Emerson

        Why don’t you care about the mortality? That’s certainly a vivid statement, but I can make no sense of it.

  8. ObjectiveFunction

    A close relative of mine in the US has it right now, after getting both jabs (Pfizer) a month ago. Very mild case so far, but unquestionably Covid (spit test), loss of taste, lethargy, etc.

  9. LAS

    Virtually all health research (the kind that’s done in fewer than 10-50 years) is probabilistic and NOT deterministic. That is, the relative risk varies between the subject groups, but that’s all we know about it; there’s no definitive formula or guarantee of outcome. The people writing health advisory talking points often don’t understand that themselves. However, most doctors ask for patients to sign a release form before every procedure or surgery.

    What was it Einstein supposedly said as if to reject quantum mechanics probability equations? Something along the line of “I can’t believe God would roll the dice!” Even he found it hard to believe in the absence of a deterministic equation waiting to be found.

  10. Medbh

    Could covid be a permanent infection, like chicken pox, herpes, or HIV, where your immune system can fight it off but not eliminate it entirely? I thought our body had the covid Ace2 receptors throughout the body, so you’d think there could be many places for it to hide. Could covid be hiding in a cell without being detectable in a covid test?

    Maybe the rare break through cases represent an infection “flare up” rather than new infection? Along the same lines, maybe the people with long covid are those who can’t dampen the infection enough to prevent symptoms.

    I have no medical background, so I’m just speculating. If anyone has a quick and easy answer for why covid would not be like these other viruses I’d appreciate hearing it.

    My attempts at googling the issue haven’t come up with a clear answer. This article states people can have HIV with undetectable levels of the virus, yet still have a positive antibody test (i.e. the virus is only in the cell, not circulating in the bloodstream at detectable levels). Do we know if covid can do the same?

    1. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

      Permanent in the sense of long term consequences due to infection resulting in an autoimmune disease.

      “It suggests that the virus might be directly causing autoimmunity, which would be fascinating,” says lead study author Paul Utz, MD, who studies immunology and autoimmunity at Stanford University in Stanford, CA. . . . . setting people up for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus later in life.”

      “Infectious diseases have long been considered as one of the triggers for autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases, mainly via molecular mimicry.”

      The virus is potentially more dangerous than many people realize, or even care to realize.

      1. flora

        And, not to be difficult, “the virus is potentially” not more dangerous than most people realize. ‘Potentially’, ‘possibly’, ‘maybe’, ‘might be’, are all terms which suggest both that more study is needed and also work as scare tactics in the absence of more confirmed and unbiased studies, imo.

        1. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

          “Potentially definition is – in a potential or possible state or condition —used to describe the possible results or effects of something.”

          Yes, potentially, as interindividual genetic variability is a major determining factor in a variety of possible outcomes associated with a focused research program that has yet to publish definitive results. Noting that the referenced article is titled “The COVID Virus May Prompt the Body to Attack Itself”.

          Further, it is made very clear that: “One thing that’s very important to note is that we don’t know if these patients are going to go on to develop autoimmune disease,” Utz says. “I think we’ll be able to answer that question in the next 6 to 12 months as we follow the long haulers and study their samples.”

          The research situation regarding COVID 19 continues to be both dynamic and rapidly evolving. In any case, given the availability of the “known knowns”, rolling the dice by not adhering to recommended safety protocols does not appear to be the best option, based on what is currently known about the germ theory of disease and the associated concept of vector transmission of disease.. But, then again, in a culture where the individual and individual ‘freedoms’ are sacrosanct and all things are relative to the individual, hedonism along with a dash of fatalism appears to be the preferred choice for a large subset of the population.

      2. eg

        Allow me to add to the weirdness. A friend of mine suffers from a couple of autoimmune disorders. He contracted Covid-19 playing hockey as part of the Burlington Old-Timers outbreak last Fall.

        The weird part is he swears that for the duration of the infection (which manifested gastrointestinally and required a short hospital stay) his autoimmune disorder symptoms went into abeyance.

        Just an n=1 anecdote, mind you. Anyone else encounter or hear of such a thing?

  11. Jeotsu

    Perhaps I’m reading this wrong, someone please correct me if I am.
    In the 5800 breakthrough cases (including asymptomatic) discussed, they had 74 deaths. That’s ~1.3% fatality rate.
    In New Zealand (which I take as a best case for high level of testing, never-overwhelmed medical system) we’ve had 2,591 cases and 26 deaths, or a 1% fatality rate.
    From this (limited) set, it does not look like the mRNA vaccine reduce the fatality rate, just the infection/hospitalisation rate. (Though 7% hospitalised, I wonder if that rate is about equal, if we take account of the massive undiagnosed/untested portion of the pandemic in the US).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s the wrong basis for doing the computation. You can’t look only at the breakthrough cases. You have to factor in the probable death rate among those who got vaccinated and didn’t get sick.

      First, on that small a sample (<100) you can't conclude anything with certainty.

      Second, even if you assume the sample is valid, the breakthrough cases may have also had enough patients with underlying pathologies (COPD, history of smoking, diabetes) so as to skew the results.

  12. samhill

    Something no one is bringing up is that Pfizer and Moderna could be “stretching the truth” about their >90% efficacy rate. Sadly vaccines are just an other product to sell. 9 out of 10 dentists..! Makes your clothes whiter than white..! Jump higher, run longer..! 91% efficacy..!

    1. Harrold

      You can compute your own efficiency rate if you wish. The math is not difficult.

      The Israeli Pfizer study was on 1.7 million citizens. They found 99% efficiency against symptomatic covid.

  13. Homeroid

    The big crapshoot. living in an area of about 10.000 souls on the coast of Alaska our numbers of infected are way down. The complacency is way up. I see an outbreak waiting to happen.
    Being a local cabbie for many years means I am subject to the influx of new strains from all over the world now. This is spring and people are setting up for summer. I am vacked. Knowing I may and may not get seriously I’ll makes me extra careful around others. I could be a spreader and not know it till it is too late. people fly from all over to fish our fresh fuckashima fish from the pacific soup of toxic runoff. But that’s ok as nobody tests the fish fer the last decade.
    I do wear a mask when I work as I care about others. Just wish others cared about me.
    Alaska is a quiet covid destination for now that should change soon . Alaska is full I hear the yukon is nice.

  14. thoughtful person

    There’s a lot we don’t know yet.

    The messaging right now, that the pandemic is over, is way crazy. Worse than wishful thinking.

    I think how long we’ll have any degree of protection is key. The worst (like B.1.351 ) variants are already reducing vaccine effectiveness (mRna Pfizer, Moderna included). If the current thinking is 6 months at best, and we know new variants are on the way, we (I’m in Virginia) should expect a new wave in the fall. Just in time for flu season, which based on what happened the past 6 months, the big wave, is not encouraging.

    Perhaps there will be booster shots by then. I read somewhere there is already a Moderna trial going on.

    Really, I wonder if all the Western/ neoliberal countries and their facist friends (like Bolsonaros Brazil I’m thinking), will eventually have to go the way of those countries in Asia that have dealt with the virus successfully: Vietnam, NZ, SKorea, even China has done better after some missteps. All those public health methods we know how to do but we are just too afraid of telling the rich and entitled, usually white and usually men, to grow up. And too stingy to spend the money on public health (ex. Korea provides food and lodging to quarantine when necessary).

    1. Louis

      I wonder if all the Western/ neoliberal countries and their facist friends (like Bolsonaros Brazil I’m thinking), will eventually have to go the way of those countries in Asia that have dealt with the virus successfu

      So we should basically give the government the power to lock people in their homes, including welding their doors shut if necessary? That’s what China did.

      I’m vaccinated and still wear I mask but I don’t trust the government with that kind of power–a government with that kind of power can (and will) do a lot of unsavory things. .

      Anybody who thinks giving government that kind power won’t result in abuses is quite frankly living in just as much of an alternative and fact-free reality as people who are unwavering supporters of Donald Trump.

      China may have clamped down on COVID–if you believe their numbers–but that doesn’t forgive a number of other horrible things they do: e.g. Social Credit system, their treatment of the Uighurs.

      1. Kaleberg

        Good news, however, on the push back against the government being able to gun you down in the street. Chauvin was found guilty!

      2. John Emerson

        Australia and New Zealand also had good results. The American Governmental system is a crippled mess, and knee jerk anti governmentalism is a big part of that.

      3. GM

        So we should basically give the government the power to lock people in their homes, including welding their doors shut if necessary? That’s what China did.

        No, we should stop using “freedom” as an excuse to allow the few to parasitize on the many, which has now escalated to the point that the few are literally mandating it that millions die so that they can continue doing that unimpeded, and start doing things for the common good.

        The common good in this case being eradication. Which cannot be achieved without some form of a serious lockdown.

  15. eg

    I didn’t realize that it was controversial or poorly understood in a widespread way? Vaccination doesn’t prevent infection — it mitigates the worst health outcomes. It also does not prevent transmission.

    Govern yourself accordingly.

  16. Kaleberg

    When I got my vaccine we were told that the first shot would increase immunity, but we needed a second shot for optimal immunity, but even that would another two weeks. Do most people just screen this stuff out?

  17. Sound of the Suburbs

    A perplexed Australian has been watching the coronavirus fiasco in Europe with some amazement.
    When I heard his argument, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

    Coronavirus is extremely contagious.
    Successful countries have all aimed for eradication.
    When it’s gone, it can’t spread.

    Europe has favoured lockdowns that get numbers down, but doesn’t eradicate it.
    Coronavirus is extremely contagious.
    The virus soon starts to spread and you are back where you started.

    The UK Government changes tack.
    What if you claimed vaccines controlled the spread of the virus, but they didn’t?
    You would be in big trouble when the virus started spreading again.
    It’s probably best to err on the side of caution after getting it wrong so many times before.

  18. Bruce

    Remember that all of the above is conditioned on Covid tests being accurate. Unless the PCR cycle count is much reduced from the CDC/ WHO recommended 40 then most of the positive results are bogus. This is never controlled for in making arguments.

  19. Gregory Etchason

    With the extreme storage conditions required of Pfizer and Moderna, I’ve wonder what the true potency of any individual dose might be. This might account for many getting much less than 90% protection.

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