As breakthrough COVID-19 cases loomed on the horizon, on May 1 of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stopped tracking COVID-19 in vaccinated people unless they are hospitalized or die. The CDC noted at the time that state health departments voluntarily report vaccine breakthrough cases to the agency, adding that it "will continue to lead studies in multiple U.S. sites to evaluate vaccine effectiveness and collect information on all COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections regardless of clinical status."
What is the Agency Tracking?
Today—despite assurances from the CDC that its researchers are tracking vaccines results, breakthrough cases, variants, and COVID-19 trends in general—fully vaccinated patients appear to be getting COVID-19 at a remarkably high rate, with little to no CDC data to reference. With widespread reports of the waning efficacy of COVID vaccines, overall, the agency neither explains how often this happens nor whether fully vaccinated individuals may be more vulnerable to severe illness than previously reported.
Besides adding to the confusion, the CDC's decision to discontinue publishing statistics on the "passive surveillance of all breakthrough cases" leaves a massive gap in reporting valuable information the American people deserve. Indeed, the lack of transparency leaves a critical question unanswered: Why did the CDC stop sharing information on COVID-19 transmission and hospital data in the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated?
Recent data from the CDC reports 9,716 breakthrough cases led to hospitalization or death as of Aug. 16. According to the agency, those numbers are underreported. The May 1 decision to stop tracking breakthrough cases leaves American citizens in the dark about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and the government's current leadership directives for the pandemic—which several experts believe is no longer an emergency. Backing up that opinion, the chart below, a CDC Provisional COVID-19 Deaths by Sex and Age, report deaths involving COVID-19, pneumonia, and influenza as reported to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) by sex, age group, and jurisdiction of occurrence.
As the prevailing broadcast coming from the White House continues to be "get vaccinated," the lack of clear messaging from government agencies leaves vaccinated people uncertain about how to protect themselves. In early August, a CDC case study showed that vaccinated individuals were just as likely to transmit COVID-19 as the unvaccinated. Tom Frieden, a former director of the CDC and the head of the nonprofit Resolve to Save Lives, recently commented:
“We have to be humble about what we do know and what we don’t know. There are a few things we can say definitively. One is that this is a hard question to address.”
Experts Watch Israel
Presently, research out of Israel supports the position that protection from serious disease wanes in the months following vaccination, leaving many experts to question why the CDC is not actively tracking and reporting on this aspect in the United States. Israel has one of the highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19 (78 percent of those 12 and older), with the vast majority getting the Pfizer jab.
Yet, the country is now tracking one of the world's highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people. More than half have occurred in fully vaccinated people, emphasizing the "extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant" and fueling concerns that the COVID-19 vaccines lose effectiveness over time. Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer at Clalit Health Services (CHS), Israel’s largest health maintenance organization (HMO), declared:
“This is a very clear warning sign for the rest of [the] world. If it can happen here, it can probably happen everywhere.”
With a solid public health infrastructure and a population wholly enrolled in HMOs that track them closely, Israel has produced high-quality, real-world data on how well vaccines are working. The nation was one of the first with vaccinations in Dec. 2020 and is being closely monitored by experts in the U.S., including David O'Connor, a viral sequencing expert at the University of Wisconsin, and Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at Scripps Research. The pair remarked:
"I watch [Israeli data] very, very closely because it is some of the absolutely best data coming out anywhere in the world," says O'Connor. "Israel is the model," agrees Topol, "It's pure mRNA [messenger RNA] vaccines. It's out there early. It's got a very high-level population [uptake]. It's a working experimental lab for us to learn from."
The Need for Accurate Information in COVID-19 Cases
In light of the CDC's May data collection change, while doing research for this article, UncoverDC reached out to the CDC to ask them specifically if there is a section on the CDC's website where individuals can go to find COVID-19 statistics on vaccinated vs. unvaccinated persons, hospitalizations and other relevant information. UncoverDC received the following response from a Public Affairs Specialist with the agency:
"I received your inquiry to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for statistics on vaccinated vs unvaccinated persons. We are currently working on a publication that looks at this data from a handful of states. I do not have a current release date but have added you to our distribution list to know when this publication will be released."
Meanwhile, as healthcare workers continue to protest and say no to COVID-19 vaccines, there remains a growing community of specialists speaking up about the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. As reported by UncoverDC, French virologist Dr. Luc Montagnier—recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)—maintains his long-held and highly censored view about vaccines, that "instead of preventing the infection, [vaccines will] accelerate infection."
*This article has been updated to include a response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.