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Ask Mayo Clinic Health System: COVID-19 and the vaccine

From the COLLECTION: Ask Mayo Q&A on COVID-19, vaccine series
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Q: Even people who have been vaccinated are getting sick with the delta variant, so why should I bother getting the shot?

A: COVID-19 vaccines remain the best defense against COVID-19. By and large, it’s the patients who have not been vaccinated who are getting the most severe disease from the delta variant. Elderly individuals, patients with obesity and those with many medical problems are certainly at increased risk of having severe COVID-19, especially if they are unvaccinated; however, we are even currently seeing severe cases including ICU admissions and severe blood clots in young otherwise healthy individuals with no prior medical problems which illustrates the importance of universal vaccination for everyone.

No vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people, and a small percentage of breakthrough cases are happening across the country. We are also seeing a small percentage of hospitalizations of patients with breakthrough cases. However, most vaccinated individuals with a breakthrough case of COVID have much less severe disease and a much lower rate of poor outcomes including death than those who have not been fully vaccinated. The vast majority of current hospitalizations, especially for severe disease and those requiring ICU admission, are in the unvaccinated. The highest rate of death from COVID-19 is also occurring in the unvaccinated.

We’re also seeing that these breakthrough hospitalizations tend to happen in people with weaker immune systems who might not have the same lasting protection from the vaccine. This includes patients with cancer who are actively receiving chemotherapy treatments, those with untreated HIV and those who are taking certain medications that may make their immune system weaker. It is not always obvious who you may come into contact with that might have an impaired immune system, and that is why it is important for everyone, including young and otherwise healthy individuals, to become vaccinated in order to protect the community as a whole.

The delta variant surge is far from behind us and is likely to continue to accelerate, particularly in communities with lower rates of vaccination. Going into the fall and winter, it will be difficult to predict exactly what’s going to happen with the virus, including the emergence of additional variants.

Our best chance of avoiding another wave of the virus is for as many people as possible to get vaccinated.

Answered by Dr. Erin Morcomb, Dr. Morcomb is a faculty member for the La Crosse-Mayo Family Medicine Residency Program and practices at the Family Health Clinic. If you have a question for this weekly series, send it to


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