After initial fears that even vaccinated people could carry and spread coronavirus, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that those who've had the shot may actually be far less at risk for transmitting COVID-19.
“Vaccinated people do not carry the virus — they don’t get sick,” Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday. That’s “not just in clinical trials, but it’s also in real-world data.”
The study, published on Monday, is the CDC’s first analysis of how well the current vaccines on the market work among adults with front-line occupations, who are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus. “These findings should offer hope to the millions of Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccines each day and to those who will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in the weeks ahead,” Dr. Walensky said in a statement. “The authorized vaccines are the key tool that will help bring an end to this devastating pandemic.”
Researchers collected data from nearly 4,000 healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers across eight locations around the country. The study looked not only at the original coronavirus strain that vaccines were developed against, but at more contagious variants as well. After a single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, participants’ risk of infection was reduced by 80%. After the second dose, their risk was reduced by 90%, similar to what scientists saw in clinical trials, which showed a two-dose vaccine efficacy rate of around 95%. Without infection, a person cannot spread the virus.
The CDC did not go so far as to suggest new guidelines on which precautions vaccinated people should still take. Currently, the CDC advises that those who have been inoculated still take safety measures such as wearing a mask.
This isn’t the only promising coronavirus-related news emerging this week. A clinical trial released on Wednesday found that the Pfizer vaccine was 100% effective in children ages 12 to 15. Depending on regulatory approval, vaccination of older children and teens could begin before the start of the next academic year, reports The New York Times. For elementary school children, vaccines could come shortly after that.
It’s not often that there is such good news to share about COVID-19, but both of these findings could signal a speedier return to normal life for millions — and help usher in the freer, less isolating post-pandemic world we have all been eagerly awaiting.