What is breakthrough COVID and should we be worried about it?

·2-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

As we near 2022, which will mark two years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it's clear that life won't exactly be returning to normal when the clock strikes midnight on 31 December. Despite a successful rollout of the vaccine here in the UK (which saw restrictions ease and cocktails with our besties back on the cards), the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has put a pause on celebrating the possible end of the pandemic.

In fact, as well as Omicron, we're also seeing the emergence of 'breakthrough COVID' – which you might have heard about if you've been watching the news as of late. But, what actually is breakthrough COVID, and should we be worried about it? We spoke to an expert to find out...

What is breakthrough COVID?

"A breakthrough COVID infection is when an individual gets COVID, despite being fully vaccinated," explains Dr Rachel Ward, GP and BBC Breakfast doctor. "No vaccine gives 100% protection from getting an infection, and COVID-19 is no different. Though vaccination gives excellent protection against COVID-19 infection, as case numbers rise in the population, the number of breakthrough infections will also increase."

As for who can get breakthrough COVID, Dr Ward points out that "anyone can theoretically get a breakthrough infection." Although, she adds: "You are less likely to get a breakthrough infection than get COVID when unvaccinated."

If you do happen to catch COVID despite being fully vaccinated though, you're more likely to have much milder symptoms than if you were unvaccinated. According to AstraZeneca (the pharmaceutical company which, you guessed it, produced the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine): "When breakthrough infections do occur in vaccinated people, the symptoms are usually milder and may result in fewer hospitalisations than infections in those who are unvaccinated."

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Should we be worried about breakthrough COVID?

As Dr Ward explains, there's less cause for concern when it comes to catching COVID if you've had both doses of the vaccine and a booster – especially with the rise in Omicron cases.

"Our main concern about breakthrough infections has been in relation to the Omicron variant and the level of protection that the vaccine gives," the GP points out. "We know that if you have three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (two and a booster), you have 75% protection against getting a symptomatic COVID infection, even with the Omicron variant."

This is a very good level of protection, she notes, but it highlights the importance of getting your booster vaccine or starting the vaccination process if you are currently unvaccinated.

So, there you have it – if you haven't already, get that booster booked in!

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting