Post-vaccination “breakthrough” COVID-19 infections are being taken “seriously,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday as federal officials expressed concern about rising coronavirus cases in the US.
“With regard to the breakthrough cases of people who have been vaccinated and ultimately have gotten infection, obviously this is something that we take seriously and follow closely,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert said during virtual White House coronavirus briefing.
Fauci explained that some breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals is not entirely uncommon with any vaccination effort.
“You will see breakthrough infections in any vaccination when you’re vaccinating literally tens and tens and tens of millions of people, so in some respects that’s not surprising,” said Fauci.
Fauci said that “one of the important things that will be done, and must be done, is to sequence the genome of the virus that’s the breakthrough virus” in order to find out whether infection was from the original virus strain or one of the COVID-19 variants.
“It would be very important to see if they broke through with the wild-type virus, which would indicate a real diminution of immunity or whether it broke through with one of the variants, which would be much more explainable if you don’t have enough cross-reactivity,” he said.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added, “So all of that information will be collected and will be very informative to us about the type and the frequency of breakthrough that we’ll be seeing.”
Fauci’s comments come after Minnesota reported this week 89 breakthrough infections among people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
None of them were among Minnesota’s 6,798 COVID-19 fatalities, including the nine deaths reported Wednesday, and doctors noted that even those who were hospitalized after being vaccinated had milder illness, the Star Tribune reported.
Idaho health officials also said this week there have been fewer than 100 reported breakthrough COVID-19 cases, according to KTVB.
Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during the briefing that the US is averaging about 57,000 COVID-19 cases per day and that the seven-day average of cases has ticked up by 7 percent.
The most recent seven-day average of US hospitalizations for the coronavirus was around 4,700 — a “slight increase” from the prior seven-day period, Walensky said.
Additionally, the rate of COVID-19-related deaths in the country continues to “hover” at about 1,000 per day, said Walensky.
“I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory,” she said. “We have seen cases and hospital admissions move from historic declines to stagnations to increases.”
“We know from prior surges that if we don’t control things now, there is real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again,” Walensky said, urging Americans to “please take this moment very seriously.”
Over the last two weeks, the US has “consistently” been inoculating around 2.5 million Americans per day and the country is on track to meet President Biden’s new vaccination goal of 200 million shots administered in his first 100 days in office, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said.
“With 200 million shots in the first hundred days, more than half of all adult Americans will have gotten at least one shot by April 29,” said Zients.
“No one even contemplated reaching this goal a few months ago,” he said. “But it is now possible because of the aggressive action we have taken.”
As of Friday, 71 percent of individuals 65 and over have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to Zients.
“That’s important because seniors sadly account for 80 percent of COVID deaths,” he said.
Overall, Zients said, more than one in three adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.
Since inoculation efforts began in mid-December, more than 47.4 million Americans or 14.3 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated.
“It’s clear there is a case for optimism, but there is not a case for relaxation,” Zients said. “This is not the time to let down our guard.”