Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Delta variant has caused a dramatic resurgence in infections in the United Sates, raising questions regarding potential transmissibility among vaccinated individuals.
Between October 2020 and July 2021, we sequenced 4439 SARS-CoV-2 full genomes, 23% of all known infections in Alachua County, Florida, including 109 vaccine breakthrough cases. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were conducted to evaluate associations between viral RNA burden and patient characteristics. Contact tracing and phylogenetic analysis were used to investigate direct transmissions involving vaccinated individuals.
The majority of breakthrough sequences with lineage assignment were classified as Delta variants (74.6%) and occurred, on average, about 3 months (104 ± 57.5 days) after full vaccination, at the same time (June-July 2021) of Delta variant exponential spread within the county. Six Delta variant transmission pairs between fully vaccinated individuals were identified through contact tracing, 3 of which were confirmed by phylogenetic analysis. Delta breakthroughs exhibited broad viral RNA copy number values during acute infection (interquartile range, 1.2-8.64 Log copies/mL), on average 38% lower than matched unvaccinated patients (3.29-10.81 Log copies/mL, P < .00001). Nevertheless, 49% to 50% of all breakthroughs, and 56% to 60% of Delta-infected breakthroughs exhibited viral RNA levels above the transmissibility threshold (4more »
Delta infection transmissibility and general viral RNA quantification patterns in vaccinated individuals suggest limited levels of sterilizing immunity that need to be considered by public health policies. In particular, ongoing evaluation of vaccine boosters should specifically address whether extra vaccine doses curb breakthrough contribution to epidemic spread.