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CDC did not stop reporting COVID-19 cases among people who were vaccinated

May 14, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The CDC will no longer report COVID-19 cases of people who have been vaccinated, only cases of unvaccinated people.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports all cases of COVID-19, even if someone has been vaccinated.

THE FACTS: On Tuesday, an Instagram post circulated stating: “The CDC will no longer report covid cases of those who have been vaccinated, only unvaccinated.”

But this claim is not accurate.

COVID-19 is a reportable condition, meaning that by law every positive test must be reported. The National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System requires testing sites and medical facilities to report positive tests to the local health department. They then pass the information to the state health department, which notifies the CDC.

“CDC is not going to stop reporting cases of COVID-19 in any fashion,” says Kristen Nordlund, health communication specialist at the CDC.

However, mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 breakthrough cases, which occur after someone has been fully vaccinated, will no longer be published separately on the CDC’s website. According to the CDC, special surveillance of breakthrough cases was initially set up to identify patterns among individuals who were vaccinated and still got COVID-19. Since an analysis of those cases has not shown any unexpected patterns, the CDC has changed their approach to surveillance.

“CDC and state health departments will be focusing only on investigating vaccine breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death,” Nordlund said. “Every breakthrough case of COVID will still be reported. We just won’t call it out in a certain place on the website.”

The move was lauded by infectious disease specialists.

“It has become clear when you have a breakthrough infection in a fully vaccinated individual, that those are clinically insignificant and inconsequential, and not even associated with contagiousness,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “So the CDC is saying that when you look at breakthrough infections, the ones that are really important are the ones that land people in the hospital, not these asymptomatic cases.”

Among the 95 million individuals fully vaccinated in the U.S. as of April 26, there were only 9,245 breakthrough cases reported to CDC, which accounts for 1/100th of 1% of all vaccinations. The CDC acknowledged this doesn’t represent all breakthrough cases, especially of those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. But of those known cases, 835 individuals were reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19 and 132 died.

“No vaccine protects 100% of the time,” Nordlund said. “The COVID vaccines we are using now reduce the risk of infection and the risk of developing COVID disease, dramatically, but they don’t eliminate the risk of infection after exposure to the virus completely.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536