A yearlong, peer-reviewed study published in the prestigious British science journal The Lancet found people vaccinated against COVID-19 are as likely to spread the delta variant to contacts in their household as those who have not been vaccinated.
Scientists, including researchers at the Imperial College of London, studied 621 people in the United Kingdom who had mild COVID-19 and found that the peak viral load of the vaccinated was similar to the unvaccinated.
The analysis, published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal, covered the period of Sept. 13, 2020, to Sept. 15, 2021.
It found that vaccinated people transmitted a delta variant infection to others at a rate of 25% . For the unvaccinated, the rate was 23%.
The delta variant is by far the most common source of COVID-19 disease around the world. In the United States, it comprises 99% of novel coronavirus cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A co-leader of the new study, Ajit Lalvani, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said the findings “show that vaccination alone is not enough to prevent people from being infected with the delta variant and spreading it in household settings.”
The analysis did confirm the assessment of public health officials such as CDC Director Rochelle Walensky that while the vaccines do not prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the unvaccinated are more likely to suffer from severe disease and hospitalization.
Rowland Kao, an epidemiologist and professor of data science at the University of Edinburgh, said the results of the study “are consistent with what we already know about the delta variant, which, while vaccination is somewhat protective against infection (and highly protective against severe infection), delta remains very good at transmitting to people who have been vaccinated, or even double vaccinated.”
Lalvani concluded that the “ongoing transmission we are seeing between vaccinated people makes it essential for unvaccinated people to get vaccinated to protect themselves.”
However, that finding also bolstered the case many scientists are making – pointing to as many as 92 studies – that natural immunity from infection is superior to vaccine-produced immunity.
The new Lancet study, in fact, showed that immunity from full vaccination waned in as little as three months. Meanwhile, booster shots for older and more vulnerable people in the U.K. are being offered six months after their second shot.
In the U.S. on Monday, the CDC quietly updated its vaccine guidance for large immunocompromised people, saying they can receive a booster dose at least six months after completing their primary vaccination series.
The Lancet study did not distinguish between the vaccines produced by various pharmaceutical companies.
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