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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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CDC director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified about 5,800 fully vaccinated people who have contracted COVID-19 so far, a fraction of the 66 million Americans who have been vaccinated.

Why it matters: The infections, called "breakthrough cases," are rare. The findings are consistent with previous studies that indicate positive coronavirus cases are extremely unlikely among vaccinated people, and that the vaccines prevent severe disease.

  • "Like is seen with other vaccines, we expect thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected," the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

By the numbers: About 40% of the infections were in people older than 60, but breakthrough cases occurred among all age groups. 

  • 65% were female, and 29% of the breakthrough infections were reported as asymptomatic. 
  • 7% of people with breakthrough infections were known to be hospitalized, and 1%, or 74 people, died. 

The state of play: Cases among vaccinated people happen when the body either doesn't amount an adequate immune response or when immunity fades over time, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said on Monday.

  • "We see this with all vaccines in clinical trials," Fauci said. "And in the real world, no vaccine is 100% efficacious or effective, which means that you will always see breakthrough infections regardless of the efficacy of your vaccine."
  • Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month showed similarly small percentages of breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated health care workers.

What to watch: The CDC said it's collecting genomic sequencing on respiratory samples from breakthrough patients to further understand if any of the variants affect a vaccine's effectiveness.

  • To date, it has identified no unexpected patterns in case demographics or vaccine characteristics. 

Go deeper

New coronavirus cases are rising in half the country

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of new coronavirus infections in the U.S continues to rise, making a quick, clean end to the pandemic less and less likely.

The big picture: Much of the U.S. is relying almost exclusively on vaccines to control the virus, abandoning social distancing and other safety measures. And that’s helping the virus to steadily gain ground even as vaccinations barrel ahead.

Apr 14, 2021 - Health

CDC panel requests more data before making decision on J&J vaccine pause

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday delayed making recommendations on a decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine, saying it needed more time to examine the data and possible risks, NBC News reports.

Driving the news: Researchers said they did not have enough data to analyze the potential relationship between the J&J vaccine and the rare cases of severe blood clots that six women developed within two weeks of receiving the shot. It will be at least a week before the panel reconvenes.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 14, 2021 - Health

Why our brains struggle to understand risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine — and the furor that now surrounds it — underscores the confounding psychology behind risk assessment.

Why it matters: From vaccines to emerging technologies, the future will force us to make difficult, risk-based choices that our Stone Age brains are ill-equipped to handle, especially in an environment where social trust has evaporated.

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