From The Atlantic: The first thing to know about the COVID-19 vaccines is that they’re doing exactly what they were designed and authorized to do. Since the shots first started their rollout late last year, rates of COVID-19 disease have taken an unprecedented plunge among the immunized. We are, as a nation, awash in a glut of spectacularly effective vaccines that can, across populations, geographies, and even SARS-CoV-2 variants, stamp out the most serious symptoms of disease.
The second thing to know about the COVID-19 vaccines is that they’re flame retardants, not impenetrable firewalls, when it comes to the coronavirus. Some vaccinated people are still getting infected, and a small subset of these individuals is still getting sick—and this is completely expected.The term breakthrough has long been a staple of the infectious-disease community, where it’s used to describe the detection of vaccine-preventable pathogens in immunized individuals. “This is definitely not a new idea,” says Kevin Escandón, a physician and infectious-disease researcher at the University of Valle, in Colombia. But as a popular notion, it was always doomed to cause some confusion. Breakthrough is still used as an adjective of praise; the pandemic has now warped the word into a foreboding noun that tends to eclipse all clarifying qualifiers. “It’s confusing, it’s fuzzy, it’s already loaded,” Alison Buttenheim, who studies human behavior around vaccines at the University of Pennsylvania, told me. And when news appears in a headline or push alert, or on social media, “people pay attention to the word breakthrough” and not much else. Read the full story in The Atlantic.