COVID-19: The Unvaccinated Pose a Risk to the Vaccinated -
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Q: How do people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 pose a risk to people who have been vaccinated? A: An unvaccinated person who is infected with COVID-19 poses a much greater risk to others who are also unvaccinated. But vaccines are not 100% effective, so there is a chance that an unvaccinated person could infect a vaccinated person — particularly the vulnerable, such as elderly and immunocompromised individuals.
"Even if you've gotten a vaccine there is still a chance," albeit a "much lower" one, "that you can get symptomatic infection" after contracting the virus from an unvaccinated person, Offit explained. "There is still a chance that you can get serious infection and there is still a chance you can be hospitalized or die from that infection."

In particular, immunocompromised people, who already have moderately to severely weakened immune systems, "are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and may not build the same level of immunity" from the vaccines compared with people who are not immunocompromised, the CDC says. That's why the Food and Drug Administration authorized a third dose of the mRNA vaccines for certain immunocompromised people.

Dr. Mounzer Agha, a hematologist and director of the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who has studied blood cancers and the vaccines, told the Washington Post in May that in order for cancer patients who don't develop immunity from the vaccines to be protected, they need people around them to be vaccinated. "Everyone knows someone who has cancer. And if you care about that person, you should get the vaccine and tell your friends to get it," Agha told the Post.

Also, studies show vaccine effectiveness against infection and milder forms of illness wanes over time, and the elderly can experience immunosenescence, a decreased immune response due to aging. On Sept. 17, the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee unanimously recommended an emergency use authorization for a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for those age 65 and older and those at "high risk of severe COVID-19," to be given at least six months after completion of the primary two-dose series.

The CDC tracks reports of hospitalizations and deaths that occur after "breakthrough infection," which is the term it uses when a person contracts the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 at least…
D'Angelo Gore
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