COVID-19 is generally less severe in vaccinated patients but that does not mean breakthrough infections will be benign, a large study shows.
Researchers analyzed data collected by the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration from 16,035 survivors of breakthrough infections, 48,536 unvaccinated COVID-19 survivors and nearly 3.6 million uninfected people.
At six months after infection, after taking their risk factors into account, people with breakthrough infections had lower rates of death and long-term lingering health problems than COVID-19 patients who had not been vaccinated.
But compared to people who never had COVID-19, those who had breakthrough infections had a 53% higher risk of death and a 59% higher risk of having at least one new medical condition, particularly problems affecting the lungs and other organs.
Even when breakthrough infections did not require hospitalization, the increased risks of death and lasting effects were “not trivial,” the research team reported this week on Research Square ahead of peer review.
“The overall burden of death and disease following breakthrough COVID-19 will likely be substantial,” the researchers conclude.