Breakthrough Covid Infections: How Long Are Vaccinated People Contagious
There has been a lot of confusion about breakthrough COVID-19 infections recently what it means to test positive after being fully vaccinated, what the risk for developing long COVID is and how vaccinated people can spread the coronavirus.
The truth is that scientists are still learning about post-vaccination infections and are still digging for answers to these questions, including how long people with breakthrough infections are contagious. But given the data available so far, most infectious disease specialist agree it is most certainly less than unvaccinated people who get COVID-19.
Numerous studies have found that vaccinated people who test positive generally clear the virus out much faster than unvaccinated people who are infected, suggesting that those with breakthrough cases are most likely contagious for a shorter period of time.
Some evidence suggests that vaccinated people, on average, clear the virus out within five to six days, whereas it generally takes unvaccinated people seven to 10 days. According to infectious disease specialists, this adds up vaccination teaches the immune system how to deal with COVID, so if youre exposed, your body can get a head start on attacking the virus and clearing it out quicker.
How Long Do Mrna And Spike Proteins Last In The Body
Vaccines generally work by introducing a piece of a virus or bacteria into your body so you can develop long-lasting immunity to the pathogen. While the piece introduced by the vaccine rapidly fades away, your body’s immune system remembers what it saw. When it encounters the virus or bacteria in the real world it mounts a strong immune response preventing or decreasing the severity of infection.
Some have expressed concern that the spike protein or other parts of the mRNA vaccines build up in the body, particularly in the ovaries or the brain. Here we break down the data to show where mRNA vaccines travel in the body. There is no evidence that any mRNA or protein accumulates in any organ.
Viral Shedding And Covid
Confusion related to COVID-19 vaccines has also involved aspects of viral shedding. The source of this confusion is twofold. First, people may not distinguish between the reproduction of a virus and the COVID-19 vaccines causing our bodies to produce the spike protein. Second, like the whisper-down-the-lane game, talking down the line further confounds the confusion. Lets take a closer look:
- Whisper-down-the-lane game Unfortunately, because there is confusion related to whether the virus can be shed after vaccination, other misinformed ideas become conflated with the idea that a vaccinated person is shedding the virus or even just the spike protein. For example, some people have heard that when a vaccinated person sheds the virus or spike protein, they can affect the fertility of someone else. This idea conflates the misunderstanding about viral shedding with another misunderstanding related to fertility. The result is fear, confusion, and further spread of misinformation as people share what they heard.
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What Is Their Function In A Vaccine
A vaccine works by putting a low dose of a viral component into the body to teach it what to look out for. This builds up immunity. Putting a whole, live virus into the body could cause disease, so smaller components of the virus that dont cause disease are often better to use in vaccines.
The spike proteins cover the surface of the coronavirus, so they provide a useful feature for the body to quickly identify. If the body can recognise a spike protein, it will fight off the coronavirus faster if it enters the body at a later date.
Here is an analogy straight from your bathroom: the spike protein is a bit like a toothpaste cap, with the toothpaste inside paralleling the viral genome. We can recognise a toothpaste cap immediately, even if it isnt on the tube.
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Some vaccines will use this whole protein, and others will use mRNA to make the protein once inside the body although the body quickly disposes of the mRNA. In both cases, the spike protein is the only part of the whole virus apparatus that enters the body.
Once the body observes the spike proteins in the vaccine, it will roll out the antibody army to attack it. This is what causes side-effects such as fever, headache and fatigue.
However, nobody can catch side-effects from another vaccinated person because an immune response isnt an infectious disease.
Can You Shed Virus Following A Vaccination
Technically yes, but it is extremely rare and only possible with certain types of vaccines.
The oral polio vaccine contains a weakened version of the poliovirus and, in some cases, really does revert to its virulent form.
This happens because the weak strain of polio in OPV replicates a little in the gut following vaccination, which gives the body time to recognise the virus and build up defence.
However, this means that if the replicating virus is excreted pooped out during this time, it has a chance of remaining in the excrement and spreading upon contact. This becomes a particular problem in regions with poor sanitation and vaccine coverage, which are usually in low socioeconomic areas.
Once it is in this virulent form, the OPV does indeed shed.
This takes a long time though, and that weak virus needs around 12 months to change to a virulent form that can affect an under-immunised community. Its mostly a problem for these communities because the virus can circulate for longer, giving it extra time to revert, instead of being nipped in the bud.
In 2017, WHO reported that 20 billion doses of OPV had been administered to 3 billion children worldwide and prevented 13 million cases of polio. Of these administrations, the vaccine-derived polio cases numbered less than 760.
If you need a visual, that would be one grain of rice per 79kg, if each grain was a person who received a vaccine.
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Could The Mrna Vaccines From Pfizer And Moderna Cause The Same Clotting Problem As The J& j Vaccine Did
The Johnson & Johnson /Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine, which is different from the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. At the time of the J& J/Janssen pause, more than 182 million doses of the mRNA vaccines had been administered and no cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, had been reported. Three people out of about 85 million doses of Moderna had blood clots, but they did not have low platelets. The number of blood clots experienced by those who got the Moderna vaccine would be expected based on the background rate of clotting in the general population.
Can I Get A Vaccine Or Booster Now And Be Protected From Omicron
The bad news is that theres only so much that getting your first shotor even a booster dosecan do for you immediately. It takes time for the vaccine to train your immune system to protect against the virus. Studies show that two doses provide much greater protection than oneand it takes more than a month to complete a two-dose regimen of any of the vaccines.
Meanwhile, its not clear how effective the two-dose regimen will be against Omicron for the newly vaccinated. But new evidence suggests that the immunity generated by two doses wanes over time. That makes a booster dose particularly critical for those who received the full dose of an mRNA vaccine more than six months ago, or the J& J shot more than two months ago, in protecting against Omicron. But the effects of the booster, too, still take about two weeks to fully kick in.
Still, experts point out that some protection against the virus is still better than none. Even if youre not protected in time for holiday gatherings, Mathema argues that youre going to want that protection in the weeks ahead as Omicron continues to surge across the country.
If theres any moment to get vaccinated, this is the moment, he says. Because one thing this pathogen will do is it will find the unvaccinated.
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Can I Still Get Vaccinated If I Have A Cold
People with mild cold-like symptoms are not prevented from getting the vaccine. However, if they are not feeling well, their symptoms just started, or their symptoms are getting worse, they may want to delay vaccination until they feel better otherwise, they might not be able to tell effects of illness from those of the vaccine. If they are uncertain, they should speak to their doctor, who has the benefit of their medical history and will be in the best position to help them weigh the potential pros and cons.
Things To Know About Covid
The new variant is highly transmissiblebut much else remains unknown. Heres how scientists suggest using tests to stay safe.
With the holidays here and the threat from the Omicron variant growing larger, Americans now face a familiar dilemma: Should you go forward with your family gatherings or skip them, possibly for the second year in a row?
Even fully vaccinated Americans who believed the shots were the ticket to getting back to normal have been watching anxiously as the more transmissible Omicron has jumped from causing 12.6 percent to 73.2 percent of COVID-19 cases in just a week. Public health officials caution that breakthrough infections will account for some of those new caseseven though the vaccines still largely protect against severe disease and death.
But theres a useful tool to help decide whether to gather over the holidays: testing. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that tests offer sorely needed insight even when theres still much unknown about Omicronincluding how likely it is for fully vaccinated people to get infected.
Barun Mathema, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, agrees. Testing is the only way to really know what risk you pose to yourself and to your community, he says. Without it, essentially, youre blind.
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Vaccinated People Are Likely Safer
Rather than banning vaccinated people from businesses for fear of viral shedding, owners should be welcoming them with open arms.
Thats because evidence is mounting vaccinated people are less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.
In England, people who became infected despite being vaccinated with either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines , were only half as likely to pass their infection on to household contacts compared to infected people who were not vaccinated.
In Israel, people who had a breakthrough infection after the Pfizer vaccine had less virus cultured from their nose than people who had not been vaccinated.
Is It Okay To Donate Blood After Getting The Covid
Giving blood after getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not diminish the resulting immune response, which mostly builds in the lymph nodes near the injection site. Likewise, the American Red Cross does not require a delay following vaccination with the vaccines currently approved for use in the U.S. however, individuals must know which brand of vaccine they received and show the immunization card if possible. More details about blood donation are available on the ARC website.
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Myth: Getting The Covid
FACT: The CDC continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and makes recommendations for wearing face masks, both for those who are fully vaccinated as well as those who are not fully vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends that masks and physical distancing are required when going to the doctors office, hospitals or long-term care facilities, including all Johns Hopkins hospitals, care centers and offices.
Johns Hopkins Medicines current mask safety guidelines have not changed, and we still require all individuals to wear masks inside all of our facilities.
How Much Does The Coronavirus Vaccine Cost
Coronavirus vaccines are free however, the Federal Trade Commission has warned of scams in which people are charging for vaccines. Read more here.
Also, of note, while the vaccines are free, insurance companies may have to cover the cost of administering the vaccine. You should not, however, be charged any out-of-pocket fees when you go for your vaccine.
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Myth: All Events Reported To The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System Are Caused By Vaccination
FACT: Anyone can report events to VAERS, even if it is not clear whether a vaccine caused the problem. Because of this, VAERS data alone cannot determine if the reported adverse event was caused by a COVID-19 vaccination.
Some VAERS reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Vaccine safety experts study these adverse events and look for unusually high numbers of health problems, or a pattern of problems, after people receive a particular vaccine.
Recently, the number of deaths reported to VAERS following COVID-19 vaccination has been misinterpreted and misreported as if this number means deaths that were proven to be caused by vaccination. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.
Learn more about VAERS.
Am I In Danger Of Spike Proteins In The Vaccine
No, not at all.
The spike protein in the vaccines is useless without the rest of the viral genome because there is nothing to force its way inside the cell. In fact, the mRNA vaccines have a special molecular clamp that anchors the spike protein to prevent it from changing shape, so the S1 and S2 subunits cant perform anyway.
This means that, no matter how much of the mRNA encoded spike protein is in your body, it cant cause disease. It cannot replicate. It cannot invade cells. All it can really do is knock on the door of the cell. It cant open the door, and there is nothing on the other side, anyway.
Back to the toothpaste analogy: what does the cap do in isolation? Nothing. It doesnt even have a function if it isnt attached to a tube of toothpaste. No matter how many toothpaste caps are thrown at you, nothing will really happen.
Beyond this, the spike protein cannot cause disease without its 28 protein siblings. A virus is a functioning system that requires a whole factory of protein workers to cause disease. But in the vaccine, there are no proteins to make a virus membrane, no protein to make copies, and no proteins to help it cause damage, or even to help the spike protein change shape.
With the molecular clamp keeping the proteins at bay, it is more like one lone worker in handcuffs functionally useless.
All it can do is trigger an immune response, but it cannot cause disease.
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How We Determine Covid Infectiousness
Scientists have been evaluating infectiousness by looking at the amount of the virus detected in peoples noses. A persons nose is swabbed with a PCR test kit, which tells us two things: if virus is present and, if so, an estimate of how much virus is present . But what the PCR doesnt tell us is how infectious that virus is. Usually, with other diseases, when we want to measure infectiousness, we culture the virus from a persons nose to see if its alive or not.
A PCR just amplifies the sequence of virus but in no way tells if its alive or healthy and can go from one person to the next,Gandhi said.
According to Gandhi, the best way to understand how contagious vaccinated people with breakthrough infections are would be through contact tracing. With tracing studies, you could actually see if and when vaccinated people spread the virus to others.
But we dont have many contract-tracing studies looking at breakthrough cases and transmission events yet. Many of the insights we have on the contagiousness of breakthrough cases are gleaned from laboratory studies and PCR tests that usually only tell us if theres virus in a persons body, not whether its infectious and for how long it might be infectious.
Which Booster Should You Get When Will Protection Kick In And How Long Will It Last
Go with an mRNA vaccine, says Ho. Moderna’s booster is a higher dosage than Pfizer’s, but the results seem to be “quite similar,” he says.
With mRNA vaccines, you’ll reach peak protection roughly two or three weeks post-booster. The antibodies you’ll gain from the booster will eventually wane over time, and scientists are still working to learn how long your peak protection will last.
Ho, one of the scientists studying that question, says early results show that your booster’s protection could wane at a similar rate to your second vaccine dose.
“The waning that’s been seen so far , you would lose half your level by two months, so a half life of two months,” he says.
At some point, Ho says, you’ll probably need another booster shot echoing Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who told CNBC earlier this month that omicron’s spread could accelerate the need for a fourth shot. But, Ho stresses, it’s far too early to know what that extra dose’s timing will look like.
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Myth: The Ingredients In Covid
FACT: Nearly all the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines are also ingredients in many foods fats, sugars, and salts.
Exact vaccine ingredients vary by manufacturer. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines also contain messenger RNA and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine contains a harmless version of a virus unrelated to the virus that causes COVID-19. These give instructions to cells in your body to create an immune response. This response helps protect you from getting sick with COVID-19 in the future. After the body produces an immune response, it discards all the vaccine ingredients just as it would discard any information that cells no longer need. This process is a part of normal body functioning.
COVID-19 vaccines do NOT contain ingredients like preservatives, tissues , antibiotics, food proteins, medicines, latex, or metals.