The Atlantic Daily: Here’s What We Know About Breakthrough Infections

COVID-19 breakthrough infections are inevitable. The question is how we deal with them.

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The Atlantic

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COVID-19 breakthrough infections are inevitable. The question is how we deal with them.

This summer, initial reports on breakthrough infections sent many Americans retreating back into our shells. At that point, the data were scant, and the stories disorienting.

Months later, we know a lot more—enough to suggest that some of those preliminary concerns were overwrought. The fact is, breakthrough infections remain a statistical inevitability despite our very, very excellent vaccines. We’ll need to get comfortable with them as we learn to live with the coronavirus long term.

One question, answered: My child is turning 12 soon. Should I get them vaccinated now or wait for them to be eligible for the higher-dose shot?

“The short answer is: Don’t wait!” our staff writer Katherine J. Wu tells me:

You never know when your kid might be exposed to the virus; the sooner they get vaccine protection, the better, and there is nothing less protective about the pediatric dose.  

Some parents have wondered why we’re giving the lower dose in the first place, especially to 11-year-olds who basically look, act, and feel like 12-year-olds. Unlike medications such as Tylenol, vaccines are administered based on age, not size. Think of shots like lessons for the body: Immune systems, like brains, learn based on how mature they are, not the weight of the body they’re housed in. Young immune systems are also feistier than older ones, and can respond just as well to less vaccine. And lower vaccine doses reduce the risk of side effects, which means they’re even safer.

But there are some shades of gray to this question that are worth talking through. First, how soon is “soon”? If it’s a matter of a couple days, and you’re having trouble finding a pediatric appointment, weathering a brief delay so you can get your almost-12-year-old a more easily acquired adult dose is understandable. With flu shots, adult COVID shots, and pediatric COVID shots all on offer, pharmacies are very overwhelmed right now. (Kids who turn 12 between injections will also get the adult dose for their second shot.)

If “soon” means a few weeks or longer, though, delaying the dose only prolongs your kid’s vulnerability. The availability of this vaccine makes COVID-19, MIS-C, and long COVID vaccine-preventable illnesses for your 11-year-old; lowering their risk of getting sick sooner is the best course of action to protect them and the people around them.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Netflix’s Colin in Black & White tells the coming-of-age story of the football quarterback Colin Kaepernick by mixing documentary and scripted drama.

Find it, along with other new shows to stream, on our culture writer Shirley Li’s fall TV guide.

A break from the news:

“Perhaps the story of climate change is a story of flowers.”


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.