What is the True Vaccine Breakthrough Rate? The CDC Doesn’t Want You to Know.

What is the True Vaccine Breakthrough Rate? The CDC Doesn’t Want You to Know.

By refusing to track most vaccine breakthrough cases, the CDC arrived at the strange conclusion that collecting and providing less public health information is in the public’s interest.

Over a recent 12-day period the Milwaukee Brewers had nine players test positive for COVID-19.

While we don’t know the vaccination status of all the players, the team disclosed that most of the players were vaccinated for COVID-19, including former MVP Christian Yelich, who tested positive after experiencing mild flu-like symptoms.

“He did the right thing and reported those mild symptoms,” Brewers GM David Stearns said when it was announced Yelich was heading to the disabled list. “We got him a test… The test returned positive and we got a confirmation test, which also came back positive.”

The Brewers are not an isolated example of Major League Baseball teams experiencing a rash of vaccination breakthroughs. Teams across the league have experienced similar problems, including the New York Yankees, who saw nine vaccinated players sidelined in May with COVID-19.

“This is the vaccine working,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos at the time, adding that those who tested positive didn’t get a severe infection.

Dr. Walensky is correct that data show vaccinated individuals are far less likely to die or become hospitalized with COVID-19 than unvaccinated individuals.

Yet breakthrough cases also appear to be more common than the CDC, media, and public health officials suggest.

CNN says the breakthrough rate is less than one percent, while CBS News reports that 99.7 percent of new COVID cases involve unvaccinated people. The Hill, meanwhile, agrees that CDC data show less than one percent of fully vaccinated people get COVID.

How does this data mesh with anecdotal evidence that suggests many vaccinated people are contracting COVID? To be sure, it’s not just Major League Baseball teams who are seeing spikes of COVID cases among vaccinated individuals.

A recent outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, for example found that the vast majority of COVID cases involved vaccinated individuals.

“Overwhelmingly, the affected individuals have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” Town Manager Alex Morse told NBC.

The outbreak, attributed to the rise of the Delta variant, was serious enough to prompt the CDC—which published a report on the outbreak—to reverse its recommendation that vaccinated individuals needn’t wear masks indoors.

But that wasn’t all. The CDC’s study also found, The Washington Post noted, individuals “carried as much virus in their noses as unvaccinated individuals.”

“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,” Dr. Walensky said.

All of this data suggests two important things.

First, COVID cases among vaccinated individuals appear to be higher than the “less than 1 percent” many claim. Two, vaccinated individuals appear quite capable of transmitting the virus to others, as Dr. Walensky states. Indeed, viral loads in nasal passages suggest they could transmit the virus at rates similar to unvaccinated carriers.

In the world today, we often hear that data is king. The problem is, the data have been a total mess throughout the pandemic. COVID, The New York Times recently observed, has shown the CDC is utterly broken.

Perhaps because of this, I decided to see how the CDC tracks and defines breakthrough cases.

“As of May 1, 2021, CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases to focus on identifying and investigating only hospitalized or fatal cases due to any cause,” a statement says. “This shift will help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.”

Does this mean the CDC isn’t tracking breakthrough cases anymore unless someone is hospitalized or dies? I asked the CDC for clarification. I didn’t hear back from them.

But if one goes to the CDC site, you’ll find information on vaccine breakthroughs that includes only hospitalizations and deaths. The figure—as of August 2—stands at 7,525, which is below the 9,245 breakthrough infections the CDC had documented as of April 26. (The CDC noted the true rate was higher, due to a lack of surveillance and testing.) Since then, three and a half months have eclipsed and nearly 70 million more people have been vaccinated—and the Delta variant has arrived in force.

Unfortunately, what the actual breakthrough rate is, nobody knows—because the CDC stopped collecting and publishing the data, choosing instead “to focus on identifying and investigating only hospitalized or fatal cases.”

In making this decision, the CDC arrived at the strange conclusion that public health would be better served by providing the public with less information.

Because of this, the media are left guessing what the breakthrough rate is.

CNN points out that roughly half of U.S. states report data on breakthroughs, and in those states official statistics put the COVID infection rate of vaccinated people at less than 1 percent, “ranging from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.9% in Oklahoma.”

A highly cited Kaiser report similarly puts the breakthrough rate at “well below” 1 percent.

An NBC News analysis covering 38 states, meanwhile, found 125,682 breakthrough cases, which represents about 0.08 percent of the 164 million vaccinated Americans.

The actual breakthrough rate appears to be much higher than .08 percent based on anecdotal evidence, however, and a more careful perusal of state data.

Let’s start with Major League Baseball. There are about 750 professional ball players on 30 MLB teams. Applying that rate (0.08%) to MLB baseball players would mean we could expect less than one player (0.6) to experience a breakthrough case. A rate of 1 percent would mean 7 or eight players. But as previously mentioned, the New York Yankees alone had nine breakthroughs in May, and many other teams racked up breakthrough cases.

One could argue that perhaps Major League ball players, for some reason we may not yet understand, are more likely to contract the virus after being vaccinated, but plenty of other examples can be found, including the six vaccinated Texas Democrats who tested positive for COVID after taking a charter plane to Washington, DC. Ask yourself this: how many people do you personally know who contracted the virus after being vaccinated? (I know many.)

A thorough review of the evidence strongly suggests breakthrough cases are far likelier than the claims in headlines. New York Times story published Wednesday exploring the Delta variant—which now accounts for more than half of COVID cases in the U.S.—hinted at this.

The paper noted that the CDC “does not tally national figures on breakthrough infections that don’t result in hospitalization or death,” so the precise incidence “is unknown” even though the CDC says breakthroughs are “extremely rare.”

Seeking comment, the Times received a vague response from Dr. Walensky in reply to an email inquiring on breakthrough incidence.

“A modest percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it,” Dr. Walensky said in reply to a Times email.

But infectious disease experts hinted that breakthrough cases are more likely than the current data suggest. “I think that if we started to test people just randomly on the street, we would find a lot more people who test positive,” Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious diseases fellow at Stanford, told the newspaper.

On Thursday, New York magazine published an article under the headline “Don’t Panic, But Breakthrough Cases May Be a Bigger Problem Than You’ve Been Told.”

Journalist David Wallace-Wells, who spoke to scientists at Harvard and Scripps, said public health officials may be “overstating the vaccine effect on transmission and understating the scale and risk of breakthrough infections.”

“The message that breakthrough cases are exceedingly rare and that you don’t have to worry about them if you’re vaccinated—that this is only an epidemic of the unvaccinated—that message is falling flat,” Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina, MD, PhD told Wallace-Wells.

Eric Topol, MD, an American cardiologist and author, was more blunt, saying he estimated the vaccines’ efficacy against symptomatic transmission had fallen to roughly 60 percent for the Delta variant.

“The breakthrough problem is much more concerning than what our public officials have transmitted,” Dr. Topol said.

Wallace-Wells notes it’s impossible to estimate the true breakthrough rate because the CDC stopped tracking and reporting most breakthroughs in May, but the data he assembled paint a much different picture.

“In Delaware, between July 1 and July 22, ‘breakthrough’ cases were 13.8 percent of the total,” he writes. “In Michigan, between June 15 and July 30, the figure was 19.1 percent. In this period, there were 2,369 breakthrough cases and 12,409 in total. In Utah, 8 percent of new cases were breakthroughs in early June, but by late July, as Delta grew, the share grew, too, to 20 percent (even while the total number of cases almost doubled).”

None of this is to say Americans shouldn’t get vaccinated. Evidence suggests it significantly reduces one’s chances of dying of or becoming hospitalized with COVID-19. A New York Times analysis of 40 states found that fully immunized people accounted for less than 6 percent of COVID deaths and less than 5 percent of hospitalizations. (Other data is even more promising, including statistics Dr. Fauci cited in June which claimed 99.2 percent of COVID deaths involved unvaccinated individuals.)

A close loved one of mine was vaccinated this week after I suggested it was a good idea; the same day, I encouraged several other loved ones to get the vaccine. This is not about being “pro-vax” or “anti-vax”; it’s about the CDC not being forthright on vaccine breakthroughs.

Choosing to not count vaccinated people who tested positive for COVID as breakthrough cases is little different than choosing to not count positive COVID cases as actual cases. Imagine how much lower U.S. numbers would be if the CDC stopped tracking cases, and instead only counted deaths and hospitalizations.

The great American writer Mark Twain popularized a well-known saying on stats.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” Twain said. (Twain and others attributed the quote to British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, but it’s unclear if Disraeli ever said this.)

We’ve seen throughout the pandemic how authorities have manipulated statistics to serve their own agendas—most notably New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who changed public health reporting to cover up the number of New Yorkers who died in nursing homes because of his policies.

By only tracking breakthrough infections that result in hospitalization and death, the CDC is depriving the public of crucial information on the efficacy of vaccines and fueling the vaccine wars. Increasingly, these wars are a bipartisan chorus of vaccinated voices who paint the unvaccinated as either crazy people—there are no microchips in it, Times columnist Charles Blow recently quipped—or filthy creatures who are prolonging the pandemic because of their selfishness.

“It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks,” Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey said in July.

Ivey was echoing sentiments President Joe Biden had expressed days earlier.

“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” President Biden had said while speaking to reporters on the White House lawn.

This chorus has had its desired effect. A recent Axios-Ipsos poll found that 80 percent of Americans blame the unvaccinated for rising cases—even though the US has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world—which has fueled efforts to force Americans to get vaccinated by requiring “vaccine passports” to travel or do business.

Blaming the unvaccinated for the drawn out pandemic may be popular and politically convenient, but as the Times points out, the CDC’s own data suggest that “vaccinated people can carry as much virus in their nose and throat as unvaccinated people.” Moreover, breakthrough transmissions appear to be more common than the CDC has let on—which is undoubtedly why they stopped tracking most breakthrough cases.

The CDC’s effort to hide breakthrough cases not involving death or hospitalization from the public eye might serve its presumed goal—getting more Americans vaccinated—but it undermines the truth and further erodes public trust in government, which is already at historic lows.

The silver lining in the story is that a full analysis of the science of vaccination makes an even stronger case that the decision of whether to vaccinate or not should be made by one person: the individual getting the vaccine.


This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education.

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Note: This commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers.  The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.

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13 Responses to "What is the True Vaccine Breakthrough Rate? The CDC Doesn’t Want You to Know."

  1. Tom   October 11, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    You are wasting your time listening to anything from the CDC or FDA. The truth lies far beyond any blabber from either of these corrupt agencies.

    Reply
  2. anon   October 11, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    oh man, I’d hate to be in your shoes when this backfires “A close loved one of mine was vaccinated this week after I suggested it was a good idea”

    Reply
  3. INGRID C DURDEN   October 11, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    I would suggest not to call these jabs vaccines, because they are not. They are an experimental drug, and no one knows what is going to come later on. The only thing that counts as a vaccine to me is that it stops the spread of the disease. Clearly these jabs do not. I am not going to get them because I know not to react well to one of the ingredients. It is unsafe in shampoo so it will certainly be unsafe if injected.

    Reply
  4. Diga   October 11, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    Observations like these led me to coin a new term, “vaccine complacency,” in which vaccinated people loosen up their mask-wearing, social distancing, and other preventive behavior, in the mistaken (government- and media-fueled) assumption that they cannot catch or spread covid-19.

    Reply
  5. Henry   October 11, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    Based on ‘anecdotal evidence’ (another word for ‘evidence’) a ‘breakthrough case’ is when an individual catches covid after being vaccinated by the clinicians at the hospital he/she got admitted to. An ‘unvaccinated case’ is when the individual catches covid after being vaccinated at a local CVS (or something like that) before being admitted to the hospital. But I’m not too worried about all those fully vaccinated individuals on professional sports teams. Like residents in the great state of Connecticut, they got their vaccines from low-potency lots and don’t have any of those crazy franken-antibodies that enhance infection from variants.

    Reply
  6. Colorado   October 11, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Covid fatigue. The sooner every stops talking about it, then it could finally be over. We’d all have been through this by now if the government did absolutely nothing. The solution is to demand the government back off and stop treating everyone like they need forced medical intervention. You do that by ignoring their petty rules. Basitat; The cruel choice. ‘When morality and law contradict each other, the citizen faces the cruel choice of losing his morality or losing his respect for the law’.

    Each person must learn to manage excess pessimism on a personal level. Turning off the television may help. Consider the notion that the greatest objection possible is absence. Stop the narrative by stopping the narrative. If these products were in hand retail items, everyone would be returning them for false advertising, faulty performance, health hazards. The logical fallacy of these products being necessary for better health.

    You can’t make it make sense, which is why the principal of opting out on principal is essential to express and educate others regarding. ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.’ People must be logic challenged, repeatedly, their several year exposure to this relentless narrative and ongoing propaganda has diminished their ability to take in and reconcile new information. The current narrative for a great many issues is; You absolutely must pick a side. Consider changing that narrative as a paramount need. Otherwise the argument will never be over, no matter how many facts which disprove the narrative are assimilated. If they can’t come to grasp this is propaganda, we can’t help them.

    Google is big pharma, they all are, many corporations have engaged in racketeering for a long time and nobody stopped them. Do your part by moving your time and money elsewhere as you are able to do so. Find old made in USA on ebay instead, put an extreme limitation on tech company spending in your own personal life. Give up the social media, it’s not working. These corporations are using tech in completely irresponsible manners, you have the option to stop purchasing their products. That objection is infinitely more persuasive than ‘arguments’.

    Guess what covid fans, we have UNSUBSCRIBED. It’s no longer interesting or worth our time. We have natural immunity. The book is closed and all further narrative will be considered as unnecessary unethical use of force and immoral posturing. See how we’re back to independence. We do not want to work for, vote for, buy from, or have any association with persons or companies which believe in the use of government force. We opt out on principal and don’t even listen to their objections. No means no, and it does not mean anything else.

    For people struggling with this issue, find whatever means necessary to navigate an opt out, or simply walk away. Learn to be thrifty and tighten the belt, saving for a rainy day. Keep your eye on Montana, the only state in the union to push a legitimate vaccine discrimination protection rule through, which is currently being challenged. The notion it’s o.k. to discriminate on medical status, but not o.k. for nearly all other considerations, another logical fallacy. The idea that several years in, we do not have early treatments or other solutions, that we should still be in a state of panic. A disingenuous position with no merit from dullards, promoted by racketeers and vulture capitalists. The people pushing this have clearly lost their minds or are behaving in a criminal manner, we should all just stop listening to them. ‘Socialism, ideas so good they have to be mandatory.’ Sorry, we’re not going for that either.

    Reply
  7. Skeptic   October 11, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    The source citation claiming that vaccinated Americans are far less likely to die from covid was back in August. As covid data goes, that’s a long time ago. Is this holding true as the efficacy of the vaccine fades? Healthcare workers I’ve spoken with, workers who have been dealing with nothing but covid since this all began, are saying this isn’t holding true.

    Reply
  8. MP   October 11, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    The hidden truth is far worse. That low hospitalization rate for the vaccinated? Look at hospital input forms that are sent to the feds. They only record a patient as vaccinated if that patient were vaccinated at THAT PARTICULAR hospital. So if you got fully vaccinated at a walk-in clinic or drugstore and hospitalized, you are counted as unvaccinated. Skews the percentages big time Seriously! The feds also did away with differentiating between flu and covid and any like symptoms are recorded as covid. That’s why there’s no flu. This is manipulation not carelessness.

    Reply
  9. JT   October 11, 2021 at 8:28 pm

    I find it interesting that you will expose one lie of the CDC/FDA supported by all their media cronies but absolutely agree that the jab reduces hospitalization and deaths. How many times do you need to be lied to before you wake up? The mass psychosis is impressive.

    Reply
  10. Patricia   October 11, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    If your low man on the payroll and don’t get paid unless you play. And your young and short on cash . You think their going to tell anyone they don’t feel right? Highly unlikely. But I am looking at data from other countries and it looks like those in hospital and seriously ill or died our the vaccinated. We have been warned about this happening and it is most likely coming our way soon. I have had covid and choose not to get the shot after talking with several of my docs. Because I have to many autoimmune issues and allergies to foods and drugs it was to big of a risk for me personally. I believe all of us should be able to have choice for anything. My dad was a medic vet from WW 11 fought for us to have freedom of choice. I will fight for that right for all of us. It is wrong to blame the unvaccinated especially as it may be the vaccinated that are the super spreaders. When I got covid I knew I was sick immediately felt like the flu I had 7 years ago was tested for flu and covid my request. Losing my sense of smell and taste was proof to me that I really had something different. My whole life even with a cold my nose to smell everything including a mouse in the house. So lets all be kind to one another we the people are not responsible for what is happening. Let’s stand up for all of us together.

    Reply
  11. David   October 12, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Of course the non vaccinated have a higher death rate…everyone that died in 2020 were not vaccinated because no one was vaccinated. Yet they count those deaths. They didn’t even understand how to treat Covid cases for the first 5 or 6 months. They even sent the positive cases to nursing homes!
    It would be interesting to know the real percent of deaths from vaccinated and not vaccinated.

    It seems like in Baseball and in Vermont the real outbreaks are occurring in the vaccinated areas.

    Reply
  12. Jessica B.   October 12, 2021 at 7:52 am

    We’ve been keeping track in my large family of who has gotten covid and if they had the shot or not. Right now it’s a tie. Of those who had covid, half had the shot (twice) and half did not.

    Reply
  13. Rob   October 13, 2021 at 7:47 am

    I’m the only one in my immediate family of ten vaccinated and have done more social isolation, mask wearing, hand sanitizer after visiting anywhere than any of them and I’m the only one who got COVID. Not only that but I got it 2 months after finishing the Pfizer 2-shot regimen.

    Reply

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