Mayo Clinic Q&A

Mayo Clinic Q&A

Breakthrough COVID-19 infections and booster vaccines

April 21, 2021

Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group says COVID-19 mutations and the virus spread are happening because of people who don't wear masks, who don't get vaccinated and who don't adhere to safety recommendations.

"I believe that we should be radically transparent and honest," says Dr. Poland. "The more time this virus passes through one person after another, the more likely it continues to mutate. As a result of those mutations, two things are happening. Some of the mutations are making vaccines and plasma monoclonal antibodies less effective. The other thing is that the virus will likely become something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives."

Dr. Poland reminds people that vaccine protection is not 100%. Breakthrough infections can occur.

"Remember that in the clinical trials, 95% means that compared to unvaccinated people, your risk is reduced by 95% — not 100%," he says. "You might have a mild case of COVID-19,but you can still spread it to others, including those who are immune compromised, such as cancer patients. That's why we continue to wear masks until we get very widespread immunization."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland talks more about breakthrough infections and the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine pause, and he answers listeners questions.