Why reports of COVID-19 infections after 2 vaccine doses aren’t cause for alarm

At first glance, reports of people getting infected with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated can sound alarming, as if this crop of long-awaited vaccines aren’t doing their job.

A Toronto hospital recently announced an outbreak involving cases among people who’d received one or both vaccine doses.

Back in May, nine cases of COVID-19 were reported in just one week among fully-vaccinated members of the New York Yankees baseball team and its staff.

And across Canada, deaths from the illness have even been reported among individuals who’ve had two shots, including a senior in Manitoba in May and an elderly long-term care resident in Ontario a month later.

But there are two key things to keep in mind about these “breakthrough infections.” For one thing, they’re rare — making up around 0.5 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases since vaccination efforts began, the latest Canadian data shows. 

And when post-vaccination infections do happen, they typically tend to be mild.

Experts also stress that while no vaccine offers perfect protection for every single person, the relatively infrequent examples of serious infections after full vaccination — coupled with the dramatic drop in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 — show these vaccines are indeed doing their job, and excelling at it.

Read more from CBC Health’s Lauren Pelley why reports of COVID-19 infections after two vaccine doses don’t tell the whole story.