Breakthrough Covid infections are more common than people are aware of


Anyone who has received a Covid vaccine in the earliest stages of adoption should register for their booster dose as “there are likely more infections among the vaccinated population” than the US is currently monitoring, said Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb of CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday.

The effectiveness of Covid vaccines has been shown to decline over time, and Gottlieb said breakthrough infections are likely to occur in people nearly a year away from full immunization. However, boosters provide an “almost instant” effect by restoring the level of antibody protection offered by vaccines to its original level, noted the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

“At this point, I think we have to accept that there are many breakthrough infections, especially in people who fail a significant portion of their original vaccination,” said Gottlieb. “There are probably more infections among the vaccinated population, more spread in this population, the non-augmented portion of that population, than what we are taking in because we are simply not systematically tracking it.”

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

Gottlieb urged vaccinated Americans to freshen up before the Thanksgiving gathering, advising that those receiving an extra dose in the coming days could have “much more protection” in time for the holidays. He urged parents to bring unvaccinated children to their vaccinations before the holidays as well, adding that children receive greater protection against Covid than adults from their first dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday cleared the way for all U.S. adults vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna’s two-dose Covid vaccines to receive a boost at least six months after receiving their second vaccination . The agency previously approved boosters for all Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients aged 18 and over, despite being eligible two months after the one-time Covid vaccination.

Gottlieb’s comments come as the US reports a spike in Covid cases after weeks of declines and a nearly three-week plateau that began in late October, with cases leveling off between 70,000 and 75,000 per day. According to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the country’s seven-day average of new cases hit nearly 92,400 on Sunday, up 16% from a week ago.

Covid cases also rose 6% worldwide in the week ending November 14, the World Health Organization reported in its latest weekly epidemiological update. Europe recorded more than 2.1 million new cases this week, which is around 64% of all cases worldwide, according to the WHO.

Germany reported a seven-day average of over 49,200 new cases on Sunday, nearly 31% more than the week before, Hopkins noted. Inadequate vaccination rates and a lower level of pre-infections than in the USA are helping to fuel Germany’s increase in the highly transmissible Delta variant, said Gottlieb.

“If you look at the overall immunity in the German population, it is probably lower than in the USA,” said Gottlieb. “I’m not saying we can’t spread here – we’ve certainly seen dense delta eruptions in certain parts of this country.”

“But I think we are in a certain different situation than Germany right now because we have gone through many previous waves of infections and Germany has better controlled the infection in the previous waves,” he continued. “Now the delta load is getting out of control there.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the country’s 16 states to take tough steps to contain the spread by Wednesday, telling members of her Conservative party that the current measures are not enough, according to Reuters. Germany has restricted public life in areas where hospitals are overcrowded for people who have vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.

Austria, Germany’s southern neighbor, imposed a complete lockdown on Monday and will implement a nationwide vaccination mandate from February 1st.