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Fauci says some 'breakthrough' infections after vaccinations 'inevitable'

It is inevitable that some people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get a "breakthrough" infection, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci says school should be open 'full blast' five days a week in the fall Watch live: White House holds briefing with COVID-19 response team The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Colonial pays hackers as service is restored MORE said Monday, because no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

A breakthrough infection is when a person contracts an illness despite being vaccinated against it. Fauci noted that there will be hundreds, and maybe thousands of instances of completely vaccinated people getting infected with COVID-19. 

The key is to compare the small number of infections to the tens, and eventually hundreds of millions of people who've been vaccinated, Fauci said.

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"We see this with all vaccines, in clinical trials, in the real world," Fauci said during a White House briefing. "No vaccine is 100 percent efficacious, or effective, which means that you will always see breakthrough infections, regardless of the efficacy of your vaccine."

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted the best example of breakthrough infections happens with the flu vaccine. The flu virus mutates rapidly and even during a good year, the shot is only 40 percent to 60 percent effective. 

However, even if a vaccine fails to protect against infection, it often protects against serious disease.

"If you get vaccinated, no doubt, you're less likely to get the flu. But even if you do get the flu and get sick, vaccination can reduce the severity and duration of illness, and could help get you out of trouble," Fauci said. 

During the briefing, Fauci also addressed an Israeli preprint study that made headlines over the weekend, which seemingly found the B.1.351 variant may somewhat evade the protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

"With all due respect to my Israeli friends, I think that that preprint, as it were, was about as confusing as you possibly could be," Fauci said. "The only thing that isn't confusing is two doses are really good" if you want to be fully protected.

Fauci said the study made it sound like people who receive two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were more likely to get infected with the B.1.351 variant than people who were not vaccinated at all. 

Fauci said the vaccine's protection means that in the unlikely event an infection does break through, it will likely be the "more difficult variant," but "that doesn't mean you have a greater chance of getting it."