TAMPA, Fla. — “We’re seeing breakthrough cases everywhere,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
Scientists say data shows the COVID-19 omicron variant is causing much higher numbers of breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people.
“I get this question a lot. Do the vaccines work?” said Roberts.
Doctors have always said the vaccines are good at preventing hospitalizations and death, not getting infected.
“Do they work to prevent transmission? Not really,” said Roberts.
The number of fully vaccinated people who are getting infected with COVID-19 is rising.
That’s because the vaccines are not nearly as effective against omicron.
- Tampa Bay teen survives COVID, spreads a message of gratefulness
- Tampa Bay health experts share advice on using at-home COVID-19 tests
- White House to give away 400 million N95 masks beginning next week
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say breakthrough infections are likely right now.
“One factor we should continue to think about is, if I’m vaccinated, I get omicron, I actually clear it faster than someone who isn’t vaccinated. Which means I’m less likely to transmit it for as long as a time period,” said Roberts.
People who are unvaccinated are still most at risk for severe COVID.
Vaccinated people are still faring better if they do get sick. Meaning, you’re still less likely to become hospitalized or die, especially if you’ve received a booster shot.
According to data from the CDC, 63.1% of the country has been fully vaccinated, but only 39% of people are fully vaccinated and boosted.
To help cut down on breakthrough cases, Pfizer is working on an omicron-specific vaccine, but that likely won’t be ready until March.
In the meantime, experts are stressing if you’re vaccinated, don’t let your guard down right now, everyone should be on high alert to limit spread.
“So we have to have the conversation about how do we prevent spread in the absence of vaccination. Vaccination is a great tool but the other tool we’ve been using over and over again is a mask,” said Roberts.
Doctors say relying on other mitigation measures like mask-wearing, frequent hand washing, and avoiding crowded indoor spaces will be key to protecting yourself from getting sick, regardless of your vaccination status.