Oct 1, 2021, 1:52:56 PM CDT Dec 21, 2021, 2:11:49 PM CST

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases: What parents should know

Yes, breakthrough infections can happen, but vaccines make a big difference in keeping your family healthy

Father and son Father and son

COVID‑19 vaccines sent a collective sigh of relief across the country. Even if you have children too young for the vaccine, you likely felt safer about returning to some level of normal activity and life after you got vaccinated. But a new surge of COVID‑19 infections due to the Delta variant has resulted in some fully vaccinated people testing positive for COVID‑19 (called a "breakthrough" infection). That wave of new infections has also left many parents wondering how to keep their children safe.

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern, shares the latest information about breakthrough COVID‑19 infections and how they may affect your family's health.

Vaccinated people can still get COVID‑19, but their risk is lower

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that vaccinated people are 8x less likely to get COVID‑19. But no vaccine provides 100% protection from disease. "The COVID‑19 vaccines aren't perfect, but they're very, very good," says Dr. Kahn.

Vaccines are one layer of protection. Other factors offer additional layers of protection to reduce your risk for COVID‑19 after vaccination, including:

  • A healthy immune system
  • Limiting exposure to unvaccinated people who could be infected
  • Lower rate of infection in your community
  • Using precautions, such as wearing a mask indoors in public

Your risk for breakthrough COVID‑19 infection can vary depending on what precautions you take. If your community has a high rate of COVID‑19 cases and you don't wear a mask while grocery shopping, for example, you are increasing your risk for COVID‑19 infection.

Breakthrough infections are a difficult reminder that this pandemic is not yet over, but the data is clear that vaccination is the best way to protect your family.
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn

Vaccinated people with a breakthrough infection usually don't get as ill

Although vaccinated people can get COVID‑19, the COVID‑19 vaccines are still highly effective in protecting individuals from illness. COVID‑19 vaccines are proven to:

  • Reduce severe symptoms
  • Reduce the risk of serious illness
  • Reduce the risk of hospitalization and death

Even with more contagious strains of COVID‑19, like the Delta variant, CDC data backs up the benefits of vaccination. Studies show vaccinated individuals are 25x less likely to be hospitalized or die with COVID‑19.

"Breakthrough infections are a difficult reminder that this pandemic is not yet over, but the data is clear that vaccination is the best way to protect your family," says Dr. Kahn. "The vast majority of breakthrough infections are mild. Severe infection requiring hospitalization is quite rare for vaccinated individuals. This speaks to the effectiveness of the vaccines."

You can be contagious if you have a breakthrough case of COVID‑19

Health experts have found that fully vaccinated people with COVID‑19 breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. But, according to the CDC, if you're vaccinated, you may be contagious for a shorter time.

You can help protect your unvaccinated family members

Vaccination is the best protection against COVID‑19. Make sure everyone in your household who's eligible is vaccinated. You can also add more layers of protection, including:

  • Reduce your risk by masking up – If you know you're going to be around large groups of people, especially if those people may be unvaccinated or if you are indoors, wear a mask.
  • Choose safer family activities – Avoid crowded indoor activities. Head outdoors whenever possible, or areas that are well ventilated.
  • Refocus on tried-and-true habits – If hand washing and social distancing habits slipped with the protection of vaccines, up your family's game to help protect everyone.

If your child is exposed to COVID‑19, learn symptoms to watch for and steps to take to prevent the spread of illness.

Learn more about COVID‑19

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.

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communicable disease, coronavirus, immune system, infectious disease, virus, vaccine

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