The Critical Challenge of Tracking Breakthrough Infections, and Why We Still Need Better Data Standards
WHO declares Public Health Emergency on novel coronavirus - PAHO/WHO | Pan  American Health Organization

Despite ample vaccine supplies, outbreaks among unvaccinated populations in the US and the appearance of the Delta variant promote infection in fully vaccinated individuals. These breakthrough infections must be carefully tracked.

As the percentage of Americans considered fully vaccinated reached 58 percent, and Covid-19-related deaths surpassed three quarters of a million, concerns over breakthrough infections continue to grow.  Breakthrough infections tend to be mild, and the risk of secondary transmission from these infections, while real, especially in high-risk settingsis low compared to those who have not been fully vaccinated. What do breakthrough cases mean in the context of ending this pandemic? The answer is neither simple nor short.

How are states reporting breakthrough infection data?

Between March 2020 and March 2021, The COVID Tracking Project collected data on Covid-19 tests, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. These metrics were inconsistently defined and reported by the 56 jurisdictions. The same seems to be true of the tracking of metrics associated with breakthrough cases, resulting in a similar patchwork of data and creating an incomplete picture of the true incidence of Covid-19 infections in fully vaccinated individuals in the U.S.


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