After a summer of reports of breakthrough coronavirus infections, when it seemed that everyone knew someone who tested positive after vaccination, recently released federal data sheds light on how common these cases really were, how severe they became and who was most at risk.
Compared with the unvaccinated, fully vaccinated people overall had a much lower chance of testing positive for the virus or dying from it, even through the summer’s delta surge and the relaxation of pandemic restrictions in many parts of the country. But the data indicates that immunity against infection may be slowly waning for vaccinated people, even as the vaccines continue to be strongly protective against severe illness and death.
“The No. 1 take-home message is that these vaccines are still working,” said Dr. David Dowdy, a public health researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If you saw these data for any disease other than COVID, what everyone’s eyes would be drawn to is the difference between the unvaccinated and fully vaccinated lines.”
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The data shows notable differences in breakthrough death rates by age and slight differences in both case and death rates by vaccine brand, trends that experts say are important to consider as tens of millions of Americans weigh whether to get a booster shot.
The data, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on health department records from 14 states and two cities. A second dashboard reveals similar trends for hospitalized patients with and without vaccination.
All vaccinated age groups saw similar rates of breakthrough infection, and they all had much lower rates of infection and death compared with their unvaccinated peers.
While every age group had similar rates of breakthrough cases, death rates varied more drastically by age. Unvaccinated seniors were the most likely to die from COVID of any group. Still, vaccinated people 80 and older had higher death rates than unvaccinated people under 50.
US voters will head to the polls today to decide a series of races and policies that will test the national political landscape a year into President Joe Biden’s administration, and a year before the all-important midterm elections. Perhaps the most critical race today is in Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are vying to be the state’s next governor. Biden handily won the state in the 2020 election, and Democrats are hoping to keep the state blue. Youngkin, meanwhile, has tried to walk a fine line on handling support from former President Donald Trump, and if he wins, it would provide Republicans with a road map on how to leverage Trump’s influence. Other key decisions to be made today: Police reform is on the ballot in Minnesota, New Jersey’s Democratic governor is looking for a historic reelection, and Atlanta and New York City are choosing new mayors.
World leaders exchanged promises and deadlines at the first full day of COP26 talks in Glasgow. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally announced a net-zero emissions target, pledging India will become carbon neutral by 2070. The country has been under pressure to join other major UN nations with such a pledge, but Modi’s deadline is a full two decades after the 2050 deadline experts say is critical to reducing warming due to greenhouse gases. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, apologized for the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under the Trump administration. Delegates from smaller nations like Barbados called on world powers to do more to curb rising global temperatures, pointing out that their nations were especially susceptible to things like natural disasters and rising sea levels. Today, more than 100 world leaders representing over 85% of the planet’s forests are expected to commit to ending and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose vote is hugely important in an evenly divided Senate, has said he is not ready to vote on the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion spending bill, even after being one of the sole forces behind its significant pare-down. Yesterday, Manchin said that liberal Democrats’ efforts to secure his vote in exchange for their backing of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill weren’t working, and insisted the House vote on the infrastructure bill alone. This is a huge blow to progressive Democrats and to President Biden, who wants to get climate funding from the spending bill assured as soon as possible. Manchin’s announcement has also sowed unease because, if Democrats heed his suggestion, they’d be moving forward on infrastructure without any concrete assurances that he’d support the spending bill. To Biden and those closely aligned with him, the bills are equally important.