How can COVID-19 vaccines protect us?

COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to prevent COVID-19. Vaccines can protect us from COVID-19 by preventing us from getting infected at all, and by preventing us from getting sick, ending up in the hospital, or dying – even if we are infected. Vaccines can also prevent us from transmitting the virus to others.

The risk of getting COVID-19 is much higher for people who are unvaccinated than for those who are vaccinated. Globally, the vast majority of cases are occurring among unvaccinated people. However, while COVID-19 vaccines are our best bet at preventing infection, they are not 100% effective. And so, although it is extremely unlikely, it is possible to get infected even after being vaccinated. – a term referred to as breakthrough infection.

Fortunately, in that rare instance, those who do get COVID-19 despite vaccination are much more likely to have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all!

How can someone get COVID-19, despite being vaccinated?

This can happen if a person is only partially vaccinated, if there has not been enough time for the immune system to respond to the vaccine (typically 2 weeks), if a person’s immune system does not respond well enough to the vaccine or, if cases are high, some people may be exposed to the virus repeatedly, thereby increasing their risk of infection.

That said, evidence has shown that vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease from SARS-CoV-2 infection. COVID-19 vaccines are remarkably effective at decreasing the risk of experiencing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease, including hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 – which is exactly what these vaccines were designed to do! So, in the rare case that a person gets infected after being fully vaccinated, they are very likely to experience much milder symptoms than if they had remained unvaccinated.

Until everyone can be vaccinated, be sure to continue to follow all guidelines from your local health authority and take steps to protect yourself and others. Isolating yourself if you have any symptoms, wearing a mask, spending time outdoors rather than indoors, avoiding crowded places, and maintaining good hand hygiene can all help reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.