COVID-19, the pandemic that has rooted up lives worldwide, continues to affect normalcy as we know it. A lot has changed and continues to change, and many of us wonder if this will ever end. With the advent of vaccines, hope that had evaporated for so many, started to bloom again. Scientifically, these vaccines, while not promising to make people untouchable by the virus, give a great fighting chance against long-term effects and death. Recently, there have been reports worldwide of breakthrough infections, but is it something to worry about?
The Truth About Vaccines
Vaccines are not formulated to prevent folks from ever getting infected at all. Rather, they are to protect from severe disease and death, exactly what the COVID-19 vaccines are statistically proven to do.
Breakthrough infections are when a fully vaccinated person contracts the virus, regardless of the symptoms, and these reports, have a lot of the general public on edge about getting vaccinated. These breakthrough infections have resulted in mild symptoms, if any, indicating that the vaccines are doing what they were designed to do. In Iceland, for example, most of their recent COVID-19 cases are among the vaccinated population. These infections though, have shown to be profusely mild. Hospitalizations and deaths having remained low, with only 2% people requiring medical attention of 1,300 reportedly affected.
Studies show that individuals with breakthrough infections may still infect offers. While this is so, being vaccinated means you’ll get the better of or conquer the virus quicker than your unvaccinated counterpart, thus lessening the time that you are considered contagious and at risk of spreading it to others.
With this knowledge, we can breathe a sigh of relief. But why is it happening and what then does this mean for us?
Immunity Wanes Overtime
Recent studies from the United Kingdom indicates that the protection or immunity we receive from the COVID-19 vaccines begins to dwindle after a period of approximately 4-6 months. This would explain why as the more infectious variants continue to circulate, we will see a rise in the breakthrough vaccinations, emerging months after many people worldwide have already been fully vaccinated. Vaccine effectiveness, however, is significantly high, so the protection offered is not critically affected and explains why we might need booster shots in the foreseeable future. More information about Covid Vaccine Wearing Off And Breakthrough Infections.
One’s level of exposure to the virus is possibly another reason for breakthrough infections. As a fully vaccinated person, if you have limited contact with infected people or areas, you are least likely to develop symptomatic infection. However, if you interact with positive cases on a regular basis or for extended periods, this could make it much more difficult for your immune system to ward it off, possibly explaining the reason for healthcare workers getting breakthrough infections.
A Positive Note
Breakthrough infections, though worrisome, are no reason to panic. Breakthrough infections could serve as some sort of booster dose in their own way. While the evidence on this may not be concrete, it is not an unfathomable point given what we have come to understand about our immune system and how it works.
Experiencing a breakthrough infection re-exposes your immune system to the virus’ spike protein. This will boost antibodies that will fight against the spike. This will increase your level of protection against the virus as your body recognizes and can effectively fight off the virus.
COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. It might be something we have to live with – an endemic – if it continues to remain amongst the various world populations. Even if COVID-19 remains, misinformation or the lack thereof are not issues that have to plague us as well. Proven studies and credible information exist and, it is in our best interest to ensure we stay informed and protected against this disease.
Reports of Covid-19 breakthrough infections in the United States and Israel have many people worried. What people are concerned about is when people that are fully vaccinated test positive for Covid. This is called a breakthrough infection.
Most breakthrough infections result in mild to no symptoms proving that vaccines are working the way they should. The purpose of these vaccines is to protect the vaccinated from death or a severe illness. The biggest misconception is that vaccines protect from getting infected what some call sterilizing immunity.
The fact of the matter is that people with breakthrough infections can infect other people. Case studies show immunized people potentially have higher levels of the virus in their noses than unvaccinated people. The difference between breakthrough infections and being unvaccinated is those vaccinated will clear the virus quicker, reducing the amount of time they’re infectious and can pass the virus to other people.
Although breakthrough cases are happening, many case studies show that there is no need to worry. A study at the University of Illinois showed that vaccinated individuals with a breakthrough infection are less likely to shed infectious virus at a given viral load. The study also indicates that they shed shorter than unvaccinated individuals and are symptomatic for fewer days.
New reports coming out of the UK with 1.2 million participants show that the vaccine has signs of waning. Pfizer came in at 88%-> 74% at four months, while AZ came in at 77%-> 67% at three months.
At this point, it is unclear if children contribute to breakthrough infections. Children under the age of twelve can’t be vaccinated just yet even though there is discussion about Covid vaccines for ages 5 to 12, thus there is a spike in cases related to kids compared to the elderly. Before the emergence of the Delta variant, early case studies indicated that children insignificantly contributed to transmission. This has drastically changed with school systems in multiple locations publishing data as to the number of infected school children.
Covid became an epidemic in our society. It can fade away or continue to evolve. Keeping a close eye on interactions between the virus and vaccines is essential.
The effectiveness of the Pfizer shot dropped to 74%, while AstraZeneca dropped to 67% after six months. According to researchers in Britain this underscores the need for booster shots. After six months, the effectiveness of Pfizer in preventing COVID-19 a month after the second dose dropped from 88% to 74%. As for AstraZeneca, the effectiveness dropped from 77% to 67% after five months.
Britain, along with other European countries, planned a vaccine booster campaign for Covid 19 later on in the year. Top vaccine advisors believe a third shot is necessary for the elderly and more vulnerable people. The United States government also plans to provide a third shot starting in mid-September to people who had their initial shot more than eight months ago. Britain conducted a separate public health study on protection from either Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines against the delta variant within three months. Studies done at Oxford University show that 90 days after the second shot of AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine, the prevention of infections slipped to 75% and 61%. That’s down respectfully from 85% and 68% two weeks after the second dose. This still a significantly better rate than 0%.
President Joe Biden announced widespread COVID-19 testing and vaccine mandates on Thursday, September 9th. These measures are intended both to stem the tide of the pandemic and encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. The number of Covid cases in the United States has risen roughly 8% in the past 14 days, and just 54% of the total population is currently vaccinated.
The measures that President Biden laid out will require all private-sector firms in the United States that have 100 or more employees must ensure their staff is either fully vaccinated or being tested regularly. Biden indicated that this strategy will impact around 100 million Americans. As part of the vaccine requirement, companies must provide paid time off for their employees to get themselves vaccinated.
There are two types of Covid testing strategies: diagnostic, which is used to identify current infections, and screening, which is used to evaluate asymptomatic individuals and pool samples.
There are also two categories of tests: Antigen and PCR tests. Antigen tests are mostly used for rapid testing with results usually in under 30 minutes and are a nasal or throat swab. PCR tests also take a sample from a nose or throat swab but take more time to provide results. Standard PCR tests may take up to 7 days to return while Quality Health Care Concierge prides itself on returning results for PCR tests in as little as 5 hours!
Experts say that the new mandates aren’t likely to quickly make an impact on infection rates, but they will go a long way to mitigating future waves.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be formulating and enforcing the new requirements as they get rolled out. It’s important to distinguish that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines, OSHA develops rules.
Many employees and job candidates are excited to get back to the office after more than a year working from home. However, it’s important that employers have a clear health and safety plan in place to answer any potential questions and allay concerns, and clearly communicate that plan. Regular temperature checks, enhanced cleaning protocols, and socially distanced cubicles are just a few of the ways that employers can demonstrate a commitment to health and safety.
According to the CDC, office buildings should be evaluated to see if they are ready for occupancy before workers come back. Prolonged facility shutdown carries its own set of hazards, such as mold growth and rodents or pests. Ventilation systems should be updated, and outdoor air circulation should be increased as much as is reasonably possible.
Employers should also identify any common areas where employees could have less than 6 feet of distance between colleagues. Entrances and exits areas, waiting rooms, and cafeterias are just a few bottleneck examples.
The vaccine and testing mandates aren’t limited to private employers. Biden announced that federal contractors and workers will also be required to be vaccinated. There will be some exemptions permitted for medical or religious reasons. It is also unclear whether Remote workers are to be counted in the threshold, how long employers must maintain vaccination records, whether a PCR or Antigen test is required, and also, will this fall on the employers to pay for the testing. One element is for sure, once OSHA kicks off with these measure (in about 90-days or so from the announcement), the fine will be $14k per violation for employers that do not follow the vaccination or covid testing for employers mandate.
President Biden urged unvaccinated adults to get the vaccine. Major companies belonging to the Consumer Brands Association asked Biden to clarify if this means workers should provide documentation showing proof of vaccination before returning to the office.