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What to know about breakthrough COVID-19 infections

What is a COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough case? (Peter Hamlin)

As the Delta variant continues to spread, more breakthrough infections are being reported among those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“It’s not too unexpected that we are going to see breakthrough infections because we know that immunity doesn’t last forever,” explained Frank Esper, infectious disease specialist with Cleveland Clinic. “We do this all the time with our influenza vaccine where everybody needs a vaccine every year. We also do it with the tetanus vaccine. Everybody is supposed to get it every five to ten years because your immunity wanes over time.”

Dr. Esper said that even though the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t completely foolproof, it will help to reduce the severity of symptoms if you were to get sick. In fact, data shows a majority of patients currently hospitalized for the virus are not vaccinated.

He said if you are concerned about breakthrough infections, there are other measures you can take to protect yourself, like routinely washing your hands, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. However, the vaccine is considered the best line of defense.

“There’s not one single strategy that will prevent infection with this virus by itself. It’s really going to have to be multiple strategies all working together, at least right now. The best single thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you is to be vaccinated,” he explained.

Esper also notes the more people who get vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to mutate and potentially get worse.