Breakthrough Covid infections are more common than people think

Anyone who received the Covid vaccine in the earliest stages of its introduction should register for their booster shots because “there are likely more infections among the vaccinated population” than the US is currently tracking, Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb said at interview with CNBC “Squawk Box” “on Monday.

The effectiveness of Covid vaccines has been proven to decline over time, and according to Gottlieb, breakthrough infections can occur in people who have not been fully immunized for nearly a year. But boosters offer an “almost immediate” effect of restoring the antibody protection afforded by vaccines to baseline levels, said the former FDA commissioner.

“At this point, I think we have to acknowledge that there are a lot of breakthrough infections going on, especially in people who have not passed a significant portion of the time after the initial vaccination,” Gottlieb said. “There are probably more infections among the vaccinated population, among this population, among the unenhanced part of this population, there are more infections occurring than what we register because we just don’t track it systematically.”

“There will be retrospective studies that identify this, but we are not doing a good job of tracking this in real time. And that’s an argument for people to go and get boosters, ”Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb urged vaccinated Americans to get vaccinated ahead of Thanksgiving gathering, advising those who receive an extra dose in the coming days may still “have substantially more protection” for the holiday. He urged parents to bring unvaccinated children for vaccinations ahead of the holidays, adding that children receive more Covid shield from their first dose than adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday cleared the way for all adults in the U.S. vaccinated with the two-dose Covid vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna so that they can get boosted at least six months after the second shot. The agency previously approved boosters for all Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients age 18 and older, although they are eligible two months after receiving a single dose of Covid vaccine.

Gottlieb’s comments come as the US is reporting a rise in Covid cases after a few weeks of decline and a nearly three-week plateau that began in late October and drove the number of cases between 70,000 and 75,000 a day. The seven-day average of new cases in the country reached 92,400 on Sunday, up 16% from a week ago, according to an analysis of CNBC data from Johns Hopkins University.

Covid cases also rose 6% globally as of the week ending November 14, the World Health Organization said in its latest weekly epidemiological report. The WHO estimates that more than 2.1 million new cases were reported in Europe this week, accounting for about 64% of the world’s total.

Germany reported more than 49,200 new cases on Sunday on average in seven days, up nearly 31% from the week before, according to Hopkins, Germany said. Gottlieb said foci of inadequate vaccination and a lower rate of previous infection than in the United States are contributing to the increased prevalence of the high-intensity delta variant in Germany.

“If you look at the general immunity of the German population, it is probably lower than in the US,” Gottlieb said. “I am not saying that we are impervious to proliferation here – we have definitely seen dense delta outbreaks in certain parts of this country.”

“But I think we are in a certain situation now, different from the situation in Germany, because we have experienced many previous waves of infection, and Germany was better at controlling the infection in previous waves,” he continued. “Now the delta warp is out of control.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on 16 states of the countryo decide on strict measures to control the spread to the environment, telling members of his Conservative party that current measures are insufficient, Reuters reported. In Germany, social life is limited in areas where hospitals are overwhelmed with people vaccinated or recovered from the virus.

Austria, Germany’s southern neighbor, imposed complete isolation on Monday and is introducing a nationwide vaccination mandate effective February 1.

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