“Breakthrough infection” is a new term that you may have heard recently. It stands for those people who are fully vaccinated for at least two weeks and then contract COVID-19 infection. It is very much similar to unvaccinated people who get infected with the virus but there are some differences in the symptoms and intensity of the infection.
How is breakthrough infection different from the other?
According to a study conducted on the symptoms of the breakthrough infection, it presents itself with signs like –
- Loss of smell
- Runny nose and
- Sore throat
Some of these symptoms are exactly the same that unvaccinated people experience when they contract COVID-19. The common symptoms are –
- Runny nose and
- Sore throat
Notably, there are a couple of more symptoms that usually vaccinated people do not experience. They are –
- Persistent cough
These two are the most common COVID-19 symptoms but vaccinated people are way less likely to experience these problems. According to a study, people who suffer from breakthrough infection are 58 percent less likely to experience heightened body temperature as compared to the people who did not get their jabs.
What are the other differences?
A few studies have also proven that people who have already taken both their shots of COVID-19 are less likely to be hospitalised than people who have not taken the vaccine yet.
The other difference is that vaccinated people are less likely to experience any symptoms in the initial stages of the infection and also may not develop long COVID.
Why does breakthrough infection present mild symptoms?
As per the experts, the reason behind vaccinated people developing milder symptoms could be the vaccines. Even if these vaccines are unable to block the infection entirely, they seem to ensure that the infected person has fewer virus particles in his/her body.
This belief is yet to be proven with concrete studies but the recent cases suggest the same story.
What raises your risk of developing a breakthrough infection?
According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, 0.2 percent of the population, which means one in every 500 people, suffers from breakthrough infection after being fully vaccinated. The researchers, however, confirmed that the risk is not the same for everyone. They highlighted four things that may be contributing to your shield against COVID-19. Have a look –
- Type of vaccine
The most important and the first aspect should be the type of vaccine you have taken and the relative risk reduction it offers. Relative risk reduction stands for a measurement of how less likely you become to contract the infection as compared to an unvaccinated person.
- Time since full vaccination
The relative risk reduction doesn’t completely assure you that the effects of the vaccine are going to last forever. Over the past few weeks, the debate over the third dose of the vaccines has intensified only because the scientists and researchers believe that the efficacy of the vaccines is surely going to wane off as time passes.
Therefore, if you have had taken the second dose of the vaccine more than six months ago, you might be more prone to catch the breakthrough infection.
- A variant of the virus
A variant of the virus sure does play a crucial role in defining your risk of contracting the breakthrough infection of COVID-19. Most of the studies that we currently have read had been conducted on the original form of the Coronavirus that hit the world back in December 2019.
The efficacy of most of the available vaccines drops when they are dealing with the Alpha variant of Coronavirus and when it comes to the delta variant, the efficacy drops even further. As the virus is expected to keep mutating in future too, the efficacy of the vaccines may drop even further, leaving us more vulnerable to breakthrough infection.
- Immune system strength
The above-mentioned factors are based on a general study on a population, irrespective of the overall health of a particular person. It means that your level of protection against breakthrough infection also depends upon your overall health, how strong your immunity is and the other person-specific factors.
You may be more vulnerable to the breakthrough infection because you work in the healthcare sector where you stay more exposed to the virus or your age is over 50 years or you already suffer from a chronic ailment that has compromised your immune system, etc. These may be the contributing factors to your vulnerability.
Notably, all the countries had first vaccinated the people who were most vulnerable to the infection, which means that most of them took their second dose about 6-7 months back. Hence, their immunity against COVID-19 may have waned off by now putting them at risk again.
Should the vaccinated people be worried?
Despite the above-discussed risk factors, vaccines surely are our biggest weapon against COVID-19 disease. Even if they are unable to give 100 percent protection against breakthrough infection, they surely are keeping the chances of severe illness and hospitalisation at the lowest.
There are plenty of countries that are planning to start administering the third dose of the vaccine to provide sturdier protection against COVID-19. Initially, they are planning to administer the dose to the vulnerable groups and then move on to the entire population. This may become a norm in the months to come in every country.
The vaccines might be failing to prevent breakthrough infection in a few cases but they should not be interpreted in any way that these are not effective. The only way we can defeat COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. When there would be fewer people getting infected, the virus would eventually disappear. Moreover, we should also ensure to keep all the risk enhancing factors in mind to prevent the spread of the virus.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.