Almost 6,000 “breakthrough cases” of Americans becoming infected with the coronavirus despite vaccination have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – far less than 1% of the 76 million Americans who are fully vaccinated.
The CDC, in an email to USA TODAY, said almost 400 of the 5,800 cases required hospitalization and 74 died. More than 40% of the infections were in people 60 or over, 65% were female, and 29% were asymptomatic, the CDC said.
“All of the available vaccines have been proven effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said. “However, like is seen with other vaccines, we expect thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”
Infections despite vaccination were anticipated – the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have proved to be more than 90% effective and the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine about 70%. But no vaccine is 100% effective, experts say.
The CDC still recommends that people who have been fully vaccinated take precautions in public places, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and washing their hands often.
“Vaccine breakthrough infections make up a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated,” Nordlund said. “CDC recommends that all eligible people get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is available to them.”
Also in the news:
►Colorado health officials say nearly 4,000 people who received COVID-19 vaccinations at a medical spa need to be re-vaccinated because they can’t verify the doses were properly stored.
►Americans in “blue states” that lean Democratic appear to be getting vaccinated at more robust rates, while those in “red” Republican states seem to be more hesitant.
►Ivanka Trump has received her first COVID-19 shot and is encouraging others to get vaccinated as quickly as they can.
►Michigan health director Elizabeth Hertel traveled with family to Alabama for spring break last week despite her department’s guidance to avoid out-of-state travel while Michigan suffers a raging coronavirus outbreak.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 31.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 564,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 138 million cases and more than 2.97 million deaths. More than 250.99 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 194.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Although still murky, a picture is starting to emerge about the connection between two types of COVID-19 vaccines and rare blood clots. Read more here.
USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
California opens up vaccinations to all adults
California and Washington opened up vaccines to all adults Thursday. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also urged all schools in the state to reopen, saying there are no health barriers to getting the state’s 6.2 million public school students back into classrooms. California’s COVID-19 infections continue to drop and more residents are being vaccinated. The state’s decentralized education system, however, lets the 1,200 school districts govern themselves.
“Money is not an object now,” Newsom said Wednesday. “It’s an excuse.”
CDC says empty middle seats reduce exposure. Will airlines book them?
Blocking middle seats on airplanes reduces the risk of COVID-19 exposure, according to a study released Wednesday by the CDC. The research, done in conjunction with Kansas State University, found a 23% to 57% reduction in exposure to “viable” virus particles when middle seats are vacant.
The conclusion: “Physical distancing of airplane passengers, including through policies such as middle seat vacancy, could provide additional reductions in risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft.” Airlines have abandoned the pandemic practice of blocking seats to maintain social distance between travelers.
Delta Air Lines is the only U.S. carrier still blocking middle seats in economy, and that practice will end May 1. Southwest stopped blocking seats Dec. 1. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has repeatedly said there is no way to keep passengers 6 feet apart on a plane, and chief communication officer Josh Earnest said last summer that blocking seats is a public relations strategy, not a safety strategy.
– Dawn Gilbertson
More data needed on rare J&J vaccine side effect, committee says
A pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should continue until more is known about a rare vaccine side effect, a federal advisory committee decided Wednesday. The committee will meet again within a week to 10 days to evaluate more data that is expected to become available. The extremely rare blood clots have been reported in seven of the 7.2 million Americans who have gotten the J&J vaccine. The recent six cases were reported in women ages 18 to 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. One woman died and three remained hospitalized.
There was some concern the pause might harm those most in need of the vaccine as J&J only requires one shot and is easier to store and transport than the other two authorized vaccines. But the committee noted continuing the pause would not significantly affect the ability to vaccinate Americans.
The J&J vaccine so far makes up less than 5% of shots administered in the United States. The two other vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have not had such effects.
– Karen Weintraub