Most fully vaccinated people who get Covid delta infections are asymptomatic, WHO says

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus R speaks at a daily briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.

Chen Junxia | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

People fully vaccinated against Covid-19 still get the Delta variant, but global health officials said the vaccinations saved most people from getting seriously ill or dying.

“There are reports that vaccinated populations have cases of infection, particularly with the Delta variant,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization, at a press conference on Monday. “Most of these are mild or asymptomatic infections.”

However, hospital admissions are on the rise in some parts of the world, especially where vaccination rates are low and the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading, she said.

In the US, officials said virtually all recent hospital admissions and deaths from Covid have occurred in people who have not been vaccinated. Breakthrough infections are rare, and about 75% of people who die or are hospitalized after being vaccinated with Covid are over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The Delta variant is spreading around the world at a breakneck pace, driving the number of cases and deaths again. However, the same hit does not suffer everywhere,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We are in the midst of a growing two-pronged pandemic, with the haves and the have-nots growing divergent within and between countries in high-vaccination locations.”

The variant spreads quickly and infects unprotected and vulnerable people, he said.

Swaminathan warned that vaccinated people can still get Covid and pass it on to others, which is why WHO officials have urged people to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing. “But it certainly greatly reduces your chances of severe hospitalization and death,” she added.

Some studies have shown that those who are infected with Covid after vaccination produce much fewer virus than those who are not vaccinated, which reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others. WHO officials said more studies are needed to understand the impact of the vaccines on transmissibility.

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