You’ve done your part – followed lockdown restrictions, implemented social distancing and taken the vaccine. Just like you, many have gotten jabbed to protect themselves against the coronavirus. And yet, reports of breakthrough Covid-19 infections among the fully vaccinated continue to surface. Vaccines continue to protect against severe disease, says the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium. Yet, India has recorded a total of 2.6 lakh breakthrough infections in people vaccinated against Covid-19 till August 3rd, 2021 according to the data collected by government agencies. So what does this mean for life ahead in a world where everyone is fully vaccinated, will Covid-19 continue?
“Despite being double vaccinated and working with mostly double vaxxed people, I have still managed to test positive for COVID. I have already informed everyone I came in contact with to get tested,” 56-year-old Farah Khan wrote in a statement on her Instagram Stories.
TC46 connected with the Director of International Medicine Dr Farah Ingale at Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai to answer some burning questions. Here she talks about the efficacy of the vaccines, the Delta and Delta Plus variants and how scientists are researching solutions for this problem.
1. What are breakthrough Covid-19 infections?
When COVID-19 infection resurfaces in a fully vaccinated person, i.e. 14 days after receiving the second dose, it is referred to as breakthrough COVID-19 infection. The term generally implies that the virus broke through the antibodies that make up the vaccine’s protective barrier.
2. Why aren’t breakthrough infections of Covid-19 a surprise?
We know that no vaccine is 100% effective against the constantly evolving virus; they’re not perfect. Hence, despite complete vaccination, you may still get COVID-19 which usually paces out as mild to moderate infection, due to the vaccine’s efficacy. The primary purpose of the vaccine is that it prevents occurrences of severe infections that may require hospitalisation and cause death. Thus, it is not a surprise at all that even in fully vaccinated individuals, COVID-19 is appearing.
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3. What are the chances of getting Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated?
The chances of acquiring COVID-19 post-vaccination aren’t very high; it is only a small percentage of people who get infected with COVID-19 illness after complete vaccination.
4. How are breakthrough infections different from getting Covid-19 without being vaccinated?
When an individual is not vaccinated at all, they are highly prone to the virus. In such cases of getting infected, the condition can be severe and even fatal. However, a breakthrough infection in vaccinated people ranges from being mild to moderate.
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5. How are the Delta and Delta Plus variants affecting Covid-19 infections?
When we talk about the Delta and Delta Plus variants, it is essential to note that they are more contagious than the previous variants. These newer, constantly evolving strains of the virus cause acute infections as they can readily infect cells. A person infected with the Delta variant will typically pass it on to twice as many people as someone infected with the original strain. The protection from a vaccine diminishes over time, and the mutants usually bring more frightful illnesses along with them.
6. What do the Phase 3 clinical trials tell us about the efficacy of Covaxin and Covishield?
Covaxin has shown 77.8% efficacy with a 100 per cent decrease in the chances of hospitalisation in its phase 3 clinical trials. Covaxin also claims to have a 65.2% protection against the Delta variant. Covishield, at the same time, also showed 70.42 per cent efficacy in its phase 3 clinical trials. Thus, no vaccine is bad, and it is best advised to get vaccinated.
7. What does this mean for life ahead in a world where everyone is fully vaccinated, will Covid continue?
COVID-19 vaccines are still not time-tested. They are definitely effective in limiting the severity of a COVID-19 infection, and deaths in most cases. It is too early to say whether COVID-19 will continue to persist and be a regular part of our lives. We can’t guarantee and say anything with surety; it is pretty unpredictable.