In another frustrating setback in the country’s efforts to eradicate the coronavirus, scientists who have studied the massive COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts have concluded that vaccinated people who have received so-called breakthrough infections carry about the same amount of coronavirus as those who do not. got infected. shots.
Health officials on Friday released details of the study, which was key to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision this week to recommend that vaccinated people return to indoor mask wearing in parts of the US where the delta variant is fueling an increase in infection. The authors say the results indicate that the CDC’s guide to masks should be expanded to include the entire country, even outside hotspots.
The findings could turn previous ideas about how the disease spreads. It used to be thought that vaccinated people who were infected had low levels of the virus and were unlikely to pass it on to others. But new data shows that this is not the case for the delta option.
The outbreak in Provincetown – a seaside tourist destination on Cape Cod in the county with the highest vaccination rate in Massachusetts – has reached more than 900 cases to date. About three quarters of them were fully vaccinated.
Travis Dagenays, who was among the many vaccinated infected, said “throwing caution to the wind” and spending long nights in the crowd during the Fourth of July holiday was a mistake in retrospect.
“The prevailing public opinion was that the vaccine meant a return to normalcy,” the 35-year-old Boston resident said Thursday. “Unfortunately, now I have learned that these are several steps towards the norm, and not something that we seem to have taken from zero to sixty.”
Dagene believes vaccinations have eased the worst flu symptoms in a couple of days. He recovered.
As with many states, Massachusetts lifted all COVID-19 restrictions at the end of May, ahead of the traditional start of the summer season on Memorial Day. Provincetown this week revived the need for indoor masks for everyone.
Leaked internal documents on breakthrough infections and the delta variant suggest that the CDC may consider other changes to the guidelines for how the nation tackles the coronavirus, such as recommending masks for everyone and requiring a vaccine for doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The delta variant, first discovered in India, causes infections that are more contagious than colds, flu, smallpox and Ebola, and, according to documents that mention cases in Provincetown, is as contagious as chickenpox.
The documents were obtained from The Washington Post. COVID-19 vaccines are still very effective against the delta variant in preventing serious illness and death, they note.
The Provincetown outbreak and documents highlight the huge challenge the CDC faces in promoting vaccinations, recognizing that breakthrough cases can and can be contagious, but are rare.
The documents seem to be a topic of discussion for CDC staff with the public. One message said, “Recognize the war has changed,” an obvious reference to the growing concern that the many millions of vaccinated people could be the source of widespread distribution.
An agency spokeswoman declined to comment on the documents.
The White House on Friday defended its approach to increasing the number of cases of the virus and changing public health guidelines, repeatedly referred to the CDC, while emphasizing the need for vaccinations.
“The most important takeaway is actually pretty simple. We need more people to get vaccinated, ”said White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre.
Concerned about the change in leadership, Jean-Pierre repeated several times: “We do not make such decisions from here.”
According to leaked documents, people with breakthrough infections account for an increasing proportion of hospital admissions and nosocomial deaths among COVID-19 patients, coinciding with the spread of the delta variant.
While experts generally agreed with the CDC’s revised position on camouflage, some said the Provincetown outbreak report did not prove vaccinated people were a significant source of new infections.
“The (CDC) recommendation has scientific credibility. But it doesn’t follow from this study, ”said Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University.
The CDC report is based on roughly 470 COVID-19 cases related to the Provincetown holidays, which included packed indoor and outdoor celebrations in bars, restaurants, guesthouses and rental homes.
Researchers ran tests on parts of them and found roughly the same levels of the virus in those who were fully vaccinated and those who weren’t.
Three quarters of infections were in fully vaccinated individuals. Among those fully vaccinated, about 80% experienced symptoms, the most common of which were cough, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, and fever.
Dagene said he felt bad the night he got home, and initially chalked it up to long nights of partying in Provincetown’s crowded nightclubs.
But as the days wore on and the fever, chills, muscle aches and fatigue set in, he knew there was more to it.
According to Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan, in the report, the measurement the researchers use to estimate the amount of virus carried by an infected person does not indicate whether they are actually transmitting the virus to others.
CDC officials say new data is coming in. They are tracking breakthrough cases in much larger studies that track tens of thousands of vaccinated and unvaccinated people across the country over time.