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Those Vaccinated Can't Spread COVID? Not So Fast

The CDC has walked back comments made by its director
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2021 3:23 PM CDT

(Newser) – For a brief moment last week, it seemed as if the CDC was giving us the news we've been waiting for: In reference to the real-world study of nearly 4,000 vaccinated individuals, the agency's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Monday that "our data ... suggests ... that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don't get sick" and thus, as many headlines extrapolated, cannot transmit or spread COVID-19. But scientists quickly pushed back on that assertion to the New York Times, and the CDC itself later walked back Walensky's comments. The bottom line? We simply don't know yet, the experts say. While the data is clear that coronavirus vaccines, no matter what the brand, are great at preventing severe illness and death, it's not clear how well they actually prevent infection—and if a vaccinated person can still get infected, they can still spread the virus.

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Experts pointed out that none of the vaccines are 100% effective, and Walensky's comments could lead some to think that they are. It's important to get that statistic right, they say, because if people mistakenly believe the vaccines are 100% effective, they may stop engaging in public health measures like wearing masks. And then there's the matter of variants, which are increasingly spreading around the globe—and, in the case of some of them, may be able to evade the vaccine. At 21 universities including the University of Colorado Boulder, a study aims to determine whether the Moderna vaccine prevents transmission of COVID. An epidemiologist told Quartz last month that he estimates an answer to the question in the "next few months," and the site offers a rundown of a number of population-level vaccine studies currently ongoing. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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