According to a new study, immunocompromised Americans are more likely to have breakthrough COVID-19 infections than people without weakened immune systems even while being fully vaccinated.
However, the same study also proved that they still have more protection than those who are only partially vaccinated.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and University of Washington researchers found that people with immune dysfunctions, including those immunocompromised, experienced higher rates of breakthrough cases to the point that the numbers were almost double the infections in the case of healthy immune systems.
One of the study’s authors and an assistant scientist in Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of epidemiology, Dr. Jing Sun, told ABC News that “People with immune dysfunctions have a higher risk of COVID-19 breakthrough infections than those without such a condition, suggesting the continued use of nonpharmaceutical interventions (mask wearing, social distancing, avoid crowd gathering and travel, etc.) and some alternative vaccine strategies (such as additional doses or immunogenicity testing) should also be recommended even after full vaccination.”
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine and as part of it, the team of researchers looked into data provided by the National COVID Cohort Collaborative which is a central database for data about the virus and sourced from medical centers all over the country.
With that being said, over 664,000 people were featured in the research that was conducted between December of 2020 and September of this year.
The patients were split into separate groups, the first without an immune dysfunction and the other suffering from one.
Furthermore, people with compromised immune systems were also split into more groups such as those diagnosed with HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis as well as those whose immune systems were weakened by procedures such as bone marrow and organ transplants.
The concept of a breakthrough infection was defined as a person getting infected with COVID-19 either on or after the 14th day after getting inoculated which is supposed to be when we actually start being protected against the virus.
When compared to being partially vaccinated, a full vaccination was linked to a reduced risk of a breakthrough infection by 28 percent no matter the state of one’s immune system.
But, in the case of those patients with weakened immune systems, their risk of a breakthrough infection was higher.
More precisely, during the study, patients diagnosed with immune dysfunctions had a breakthrough infection rate of 7.1 per 1,000 people per month.
As for those who had undergone bone marrow transplant procedures, they had a breakthrough infection rate of 8.6 per 1,000 people per month.
Furthermore, HIV patients had an even higher rate of 9.1 per 1,000 people per month, followed by 9.3 per 1,000 people per month in the case of rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Finally, the highest breakthrough case rate was identified as surging among organ transplant patients, the numbers being twice as high as for those not immunocompromised – 15.7 per 1,000 people per month.
The scientists involved in this research think that this is because transplant patients need to be on immunosuppressants all their lives following the procedure in order to make sure that their bodies do not end up rejecting their new organs.
But, while absolutely necessary, this also leads to their immune systems getting really weak which in turn, makes them more susceptible to contracting different infections including COVID-19.
The researchers pointed out that the study was able to provide some more evidence that immunocompromised people are indeed at a higher risk of a breakthrough infection which is why these citizens – which amount to 3 percent of the American population – need to continue wearing their masks even after getting fully vaccinated.
Furthermore, it is also advised that they take all the possible measures to prevent reinfection, including receiving the booster shot.
It has to be mentioned that the study might not be as conclusive anymore, however, due to the fact that it was conducted when the Delta variant was dominant and before the Omicron strain took over.
With that being said, since Omicron is considered to be more transmissible, it is very likely that the risk of breakthrough infection for immunocompromised people is even higher at this point.
Furthermore, the team only studied the risks of a breakthrough infection following the vaccination with the first and second doses but not after receiving the booster shot since they were not available at the time.
As you might know, boosters were first approved back in August for immunocompromised people by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.
It has to be mentioned that the third shot has been proven to efficiently boost antibody levels in immunocompromised people.
Finally, the third and last flaw of the study is that it looked at only some immunocompromising conditions, others such as cancers, being left out.