COVID-19 still found a way into a fully vaccinated crowd. Will Omicron make ‘breakthrough infections’ worse?



High school reunions have always been fraught with the possibility of awkwardness. When you hold one in a pandemic, the gathering of old friends, lovers and rivals becomes infinitely trickier.The class of 1971 from Waynesboro High School in the US state of Virginia was determined to get together, despite the threat of COVID-19. Organisers did everything they could to prevent the spread of infection. Everyone who attended needed to be fully vaccinated, with no exceptions.Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from December 6 with a look back at our blog”When you’re looking at a classmate that you lived in a small city with and have known for 60, 70 years, and you tell them they can’t come because they don’t have a vaccination card, that’s hard,” Diana Blackburn Mahoney said. “It did not feel good to have to tell them no.”She is now relieved she and her fellow reunion organisers stuck to their decision. Despite every single guest being vaccinated — and in some cases triple-vaxxed — the virus still found a way in.More than 20 of the 170 or so guests tested positive for COVID-19 in the days after the reunion. However, everyone who contracted the virus experienced a fairly mild case and has since recovered. The event shows the power of vaccines against the Delta variant, which remains the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the US and around the world. But experts are still racing to figure out whether havoc would have been unleashed if the newly discovered variant Omicron had found its way into the room. As the brass band played, the virus spreadChase Hughes got his booster shot just days before the reunion, but he still managed to contract COVID-19.He was playing in the brass band that served as the evening’s entertainment and felt fine on the night. “On the Monday, we got word from one of our band members that he had gone and gotten tested and he was positive,” he said. “And I went, ‘oh no’.” Mr Hughes had started feeling the first inklings that he was unwell.  The class of 1971 had a vaccine mandate to attend its Waynesboro High School reunion. (ABC News: Brad McLennan )”I felt like I had got some symptoms, so the next day I went in and got tested and found out on Wednesday that I was positive,” he said. His symptoms were relatively mild, with what felt like a cold lingering for several days before he was back to normal.He did not pass it onto his family. Ms Blackburn Mahoney’s husband also caught COVID-19, despite having had a booster shot. He has since recovered too. Thankfully, she said, no-one who attended the reunion became seriously ill or died. “I think the vaccines did their job,” she said. “We did everything that we knew to do and they still got it. “If they had not had the vaccine, they could have been very ill and might not still be here today.”‘Breakthrough cases’ are on the riseAll of the cases from the reunion are considered “breakthrough infections” — the term given to cases in people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) considers someone to be fully vaccinated a fortnight after their second shot of a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, rather than taking boosters into account. Data published by the CDC shows that while breakthrough cases are still leading to hospitalisations and deaths in the US, the risk is still much lower than the one facing those who have not been vaccinated.  Data from the US Centres for Disease Control shows that unvaccinated Americans are far more likely to contact the disease than the vaccinated. (Supplied: Centres for Disease Control )In September, the CDC estimated unvaccinated people were nearly six times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 and 14 times more likely to die from it. “Breakthrough infections are increasing all over the world where you have more vaccination and you have high transmission, particularly of the Delta virus,” said Robert Bollinger, a professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University.”Those who get significantly ill from breakthrough infections, those who are hospitalised and unfortunately die, they tend to be people who are older, people that are immunocompromised, people that have multiple other comorbidity health conditions.” Still, Dr Bollinger said the chances of dying from COVID-19 while vaccinated are extremely small. “We have to keep this in perspective, compared to the risk of unvaccinated people, it’s much, much less,” he said. Dr Bollinger said breakthrough cases following booster shots were also to be expected, although evidence suggested the majority so far were mild. “You can still get COVID after a booster or after any vaccine. There’s no 100 per cent [effective] vaccine that I’m aware of,” he said. “The most important thing is that the risk of that breakthrough is much lower after a booster.”Delta threat ‘much more important than Omicron’As scientists scramble to learn more about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, one of the biggest concerns is whether existing vaccines will be effective against the new strain. Scientists are still studying the new variant, but its mutations could give it some ability to evade vaccines. America’s top infectious diseases official, Anthony Fauci, told a recent briefing he was hopeful vaccines would provide at least some level of protection —  especially if people were getting booster shots to guard against waning immunity. Loading”We know that when you boost somebody, you elevate your level of protection very high,” he said. “And we are hoping — and, I think, with good reason to feel good — that there will be some degree of protection.” In the US, everyone over the age of 18 is eligible for a booster shot six months after their second Pfizer or Moderna dose and two months after a single Johnson & Johnson dose.Dr Bollinger was also optimistic and argued that regardless of how they worked against Omicron, vaccines were still needed in the fight against Delta.In the US, the Delta variant is estimated to represent as many as 99.9 per cent of all tracked cases. “We already have a threat from Delta, that’s much more important than Omicron right now,” Dr Bollinger said. “Many, many, many more people are getting sick and dying from Delta and other earlier variants.”What you need to know about coronavirus:Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 35 seconds2m 35s Why we hear about some COVID-19 variants more than others



Source link

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: