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The U.S. is continuing to quicken the pace of administering vaccines. As a result, 11 states have reported that more than 50 percent of their population has received at least one dose and if the current pace holds, half of the national population will have received their first shot in the coming days. But during a virtual White House briefing on April 12, Anthony Fauci, MD, reminded the public that despite being highly effective at protecting against COVID-19, it's still possible to catch the virus even if you're vaccinated for one reason. Read on to see how it's still possible to get sick after your shots, and for more on what you still shouldn't do after you're immunized, The CDC Is Warning You to Avoid This One Place, Even If You're Vaccinated.
Fauci explained that no vaccine is 100 percent effective.
While addressing reporters, Fauci explained how some patients could become infected with COVID even after being fully vaccinated, citing what is known as a "breakthrough infection."
"We see this with all vaccines, in clinical trials and in the real world. No vaccine is 100 percent efficacious or effective, which means that we will always see breakthrough infections, regardless of the efficacy of the vaccine," Fauci explained.
Vaccines can fail because of individual immune responses or fading immunity.
Fauci went on to describe how and why vaccines sometimes fall short of their protective goals by describing the two reasons. "There's 'primary vaccine failure,' when the body actually doesn't amount an adequate immune response for a number of reasons. It could be immune status, health status, age, medications you're on, or something wrong with the vaccines—storage, delivery, composition," he explained.
"'Secondary vaccine failure' may occur when immunity fades over time," Fauci then explained. "Now, a vaccine may fail also if a person is exposed to a new or a different strain or a variant. For example, influenza is the most common of this, which mutates rapidly and drifts, genetically, generally from season to season," adding that "even on a very good year, it's 40 to 60 percent effective." And for more important updates, Johnson&Johnson Just Issued This Urgent Warning About Its Vaccine.
Serious forms of disease can be prevented by vaccines.
But Fauci then explained that despite not being able to keep people from becoming outright ill, immunizations were still highly successful at one important thing, saying: "Even if a vaccine fails to protect against infection, it often protects against serious disease."
The top infectious disease expert went on to use the common flu as an example of why the shots can be so important, pointing out health data from the 2019-2020 season that showed 7.5 million illnesses and 6,300 deaths were prevented in a year when the administered vaccine was only 39 percent effective. "If you get vaccinated, no doubt you're less likely to get the flu. But even if you do get flu and get sick, vaccination can reduce the severity and duration of illness and could help get you out of trouble," he said.
Fauci believes we're pulling back on safety measures too soon.
But despite the successes the U.S. has seen with increasing vaccinations, Fauci is also concerned about recent developments that could bring about another surge in cases. During an appearance on CNN later that day, Fauci said it was important that we didn't "declare victory prematurely" and erase the progress that's been made.
"We see so many pulling back on some of the public health measures, the mask mandates, the restaurant opening, the bars, we can't be doing that," Fauci told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We've got to wait a bit longer until we get enough vaccine into people that we will clearly blunt any surge," adding that the combination of keeping up the pace with vaccinations and doubling down on safety measures would create a "turnaround" that would bring case numbers down again. And for more on how effective your shots are, check out This Is How Long the Moderna Vaccine Really Protects You, New Study Says.