Breakthrough cases

Indiana has recorded few "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19, cases that occur after a person has become fully vaccinated against the virus.

INDIANAPOLIS — No vaccine offer perfect protection from disease, but so far the COVID-19 vaccines are proving to be close to it.

Across Indiana, fewer than one-tenth of 1% of Hoosiers who have become fully vaccinated have later contracted COVID-19.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, of the more than 2.67 million Hoosiers who have completed their vaccination regimen, the state has logged 2,030 “breakthrough” cases, which is defined as individual testing positive for the virus more than 14 days after getting their final vaccine.

Put into a percentage, that’s a breakthrough rate of just 0.077%.

During trials, drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna had stated that their two-shot vaccines proved to be upward of 95% effective at preventing a COVID-19 infection. Efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson shot was pegged a little lower at around 85% overall, but was still highly effective at stopping severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death.

Indiana’s vaccine dashboard doesn’t break down demographics for those who have contracted COVID-19 after vaccination, but earlier this year health officials from the Indiana State Department of Health had noted that a large chunk of those have been among elderly patients who appear to not be able to muster a full immune response even with help from the vaccine.

The vaccines have only been in use in Indiana for about a half year so far — the first eligible group of medical workers and first responders started getting them in December and 80-year-olds and older didn’t become eligible until January — so the shots have proven durable over the short-term.

It’s unclear exactly how long immunity from a COVID-19 vaccine will hold up and whether boosters might be required some time in the future, but so far even trial recipients of the vaccines who have been about a year on since getting their shots are still showing high resistance to the virus.

It appears the defense gained from the vaccine is good for at least a year, but whether it begins to fade after multiple years or is good for life like some vaccines is still an open question.

Currently about 46% of Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — with rates higher than 70% for those 65 and older — and that level of vaccination has led to stark drops in the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths across Indiana.

Although activity has dropped substantially, the virus has not been eradicated and health officials are still encouraging all eligible Hoosiers, anyone 12 and older, to get a vaccine in order to prevent further circulation to unvaccinated groups, help protect people from the possibility of more breakthrough cases, build community-wide immunity as more and more people become vaccinated and help prevent further mutation of the virus that could spawn new strains more virulent or more dangerous than those currently known.

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