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Covid US: Warning CDC has stopped counting every ‘breakthrough’ infection in fully vaccinated people

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stopped counting every infection among people fully immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine who later tested positive for the virus. 

So-called ‘breakthrough cases’ occur when people contract coronavirus at least 14 days after receiving their final dose of the vaccine.

As of April 26, 9,245 Americans out of more than 95 million fell ill with COVID-19  after being vaccinated, about 0.009 percent.

However, at the beginning of May, the CDC revealed it will no longer report all breakthroughs and instead only those that lead to hospitalization or death, as first reported by Bloomberg. 

According to the CDC, nine percent of the breakthrough infections, or 835, have resulted in hospitalization and one percent, 132 people, have died.

But an expert tells that now is not the time for the federal health agency to change their methods of data collection, and stress that it could lead to missing patterns in who gets sick after their shots. 

The CDC is no longer counting every infection among people who fell ill with COVID-19 after being fully immunized with the vaccine, currently reported to be 0.009%. Pictured: A health care worker receives her first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, May 2021

As of May, the agency will now only report on 'breakthrough' cases that lead to hospitalization or death, which currently sit at 835 and 132, respectively

As of May, the agency will now only report on ‘breakthrough’ cases that lead to hospitalization or death, which currently sit at 835 and 132, respectively

In a statement, a spokeswoman from the CDC told that the agency is transitioning to only reporting on specific cases ‘to help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.’

The change in reporting will start on Friday, May 14.  

Dr Tom Clark, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Disease, told Bloomberg that the number of breakthrough infections is likely an undercount because it relies on state health departments voluntarily reporting the cases. 

He added that since the CDC started counting COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated people, no worrying trends have been detected. 

‘I don’t think we’re missing out on this data,’ Clark told Bloomberg.

‘It’s just sort of a package of how we’re looking at these questions.’  

Scientists have warned that breakthrough cases will continue to occur as tens of millions of people are vaccinated across the country.

In clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease and the Moderna vaccine was 94.5 percent effective,

Meanwhile, real-world data showed the Pfizer jab was 91 percent effective against all disease for at least six months and the Moderna vaccine was 90 percent effective.

This means that fully vaccinated people are between 90 and 95 percent less likely to develop COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.

But public health experts say that focusing only on people who are hospitalized or die is narrowing the focus of reporting too much.   

Dr Michael Kinch, director of the Center for Drug Discovery at Washington University in St Louis told that as much data on breakthrough cases should be collected as possible.

He said that mild or moderate cases are still important to track because symptoms can evolve over weeks and even months and differ among individuals.

‘It seems awfully reckless to lower our guard now,’ Kinch said.

Kinch added that by not reporting every breakthrough case, the CDC could be missing the mechanisms that lead to infections in fully vaccinated people. 

‘We have spent so much time worrying about different versions of the virus, the variants, but have missed why two to three people who get sick die, 10 to 20 get severely sick and 70 to 80 don’t care,’ he said.

‘It’s about looking at not just the variation in the virus but the variation in the people.’

Kinch believes that the change in data collection is a resource constraint and that more support should be directed towards a management system for reporting COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases

‘We’re going to blow it if we don’t stay one step ahead [of the virus] and, frankly, it’s gonna blow it for the rest of the world,’ he said.

‘As we identify why breakthrough cases occur, we’re going to help inform the rest of the world. We have to devote the resources to this.

‘The CDC is amazingly good, but they blew it during 2020 reporting on this virus. Now they have a chance to rebuild credibility. Now is not the time to go back to where they were a year ago.’