Global HealthInfectious Disease

CDC Update on COVID-19

CDC Update on COVID-19

Trust the Emerging Science

By Gary W. Selnow, Ph.D.; Edited by Allison Kozicharow

With a health issue like COVID-19, we all like a linear story: There’s a killer virus out there, but we’ve found a vaccine that stops it cold in an individual, and when enough of us get the vaccine, the virus fades away and we all return to life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness.

That isn’t the COVID-19 story, though. It’s a dangerous virus, where some people get sick, some die and some never feel a thing. There are remarkable vaccines, but they have a sliding scale of effectiveness, and then they attenuate, and so we’ll need a booster to keep the virus from breaking through. Then some people who get sick from COVID-19 get well and seem protected, but then ill health effects return. These long-haulers are a mystery. Don’t even ask about the variants where the first COVID-19 was bad, but some of the follow-ups are worse by spreading faster and making people sicker.

The COVID-19 story is not linear, and we don’t move from A to B to C, end of story. The twists and turns of the COVID-19 plot frustrate people, and that poses a serious problem for the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elsewhere who track the meandering path of this story. How do they explain the nuances of vaccine protections, the on-again-off-again guidance for mask wearing, the devious evolution of this virus, the shifting advice that tracks the measures needed to keep us safe? As medical and health educators, we at WiRED sympathize with the researchers and policymakers who balance the science against the tolerance of an exasperated population that likes its stories to be linear.

In this article, we offer the latest CDC advice about break-through infections. To our way of thinking, this description attempts to get out the science, while recognizing the frustrations of people. If you like a story A to B to C, this isn’t for you. If you want to understand where we are with COVID-19, break-through infections and the Delta variant, it will be worth a few minutes of your time. 

Sharing