What is the risk of catching Covid-19 in Austria when already vaccinated?

Official figures released on Thursday by AGES show vaccinated people in Austria can catch Covid-19 - but the risk is low.

What is the risk of catching Covid-19 in Austria when already vaccinated?
What is the risk of contracting Covid in Austria when you are already vaccinated? RONNY HARTMANN / AFP

As the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out continues across Austria, many people are asking about the likelihood of catching the virus when fully vaccinated.

Official figures released on Thursday show the number of people in Austria diagnosed with Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated is minimal, which means the risk is low, but it can still happen. 

Vaccine breakthrough in Austria

Catching Covid-19 when fully vaccinated is known as a vaccine breakthrough (Impfdurchbrüche).

It happens when the virus breaks through the immune system barrier created by the vaccine, resulting in a person becoming unwell.

Since 1st February 2021, the Austrian Ministry for Health (AGES) has recorded 2,871 cases of vaccine breakthrough in people aged 12 and over, out of 227,178 Covid-19 cases.

This means that people catching Covid once already vaccinated accounts for 1.91 percent of all cases, according to latest figures up to 17th August 2021.

For people aged 18 to 59, there have been 2,173 recorded cases of vaccine breakthrough (1.88 percent), and in the 60-plus age group there have been 684 cases (3.03 percent).

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But in the 12 to 17 age group, vaccine breakthrough is even less common with 14 recorded cases (0.12 percent).

These figures can then be put into further context by looking at the percentage of the age group that is fully vaccinated. 

In the 60-plus age group, 78.89 percent of people in Austria are now fully vaccinated compared with 53.32 percent in people aged 18 to 59. 

Whereas only 13.85 percent are fully vaccinated in the 12 to 17 age group.

The report said: “Vaccine breakthroughs occur particularly in persons with pre-existing immunocompromised individuals in whom vaccination has failed to provide immune protection.”

The report also states that data from other countries show symptoms of Covid-19 in fully vaccinated people are usually mild, with limited hospitalisations and deaths.

How effective are Covid-19 vaccines?

By analysing the data on vaccine breakthrough, AGES has established the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines.

For 40 to 59-years-olds, the vaccine efficacy is 90.56 percent, and for people aged 60 and above, the rate is 90.79 percent.

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The efficacy rate means that out of 100 people, approximately 90 are protected from symptomatic infection of Covid-19.

For people aged 40 and under, AGES was unable to report on vaccine efficacy because the proportion of fully vaccinated people in Austria in this age group is still too low.

In total, 4,549,023 people are now fully vaccinated in Austria, which represents 57.57 percent of the population.

How are vaccine breakthroughs recorded?

Currently, statistics on vaccine breakthrough in Austria only include cases with clinical symptoms of the virus. Non-symptomatic cases are not considered as a vaccine breakthrough.

It is also expected that the real number of vaccine breakthroughs could be higher as figures are only available for people that have taken a coronavirus test.

However, most people only take a coronavirus test if they have symptoms of Covid-19, or it is required to comply with 3G rules (tested, vaccinated or recovered) and they are not vaccinated or recovered.

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‘At the limit: Huge spike in Covid hospitalisations and deaths in Austria

The number of people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 in Austria has increased by more than 30 percent in one week. The number of deaths is also increasing again.

'At the limit: Huge spike in Covid hospitalisations and deaths in Austria

Covid-19 hospitalisations in Austria has gone up by 32 percent in just one week with a large majority of patients located in Lower Austria, Vienna and Upper Austria.

According to the AGES Covid-19 Dashboard, the total number of people currently in hospital with the virus is 1,399, with 90 cases in intensive care.

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The Wiener Zeitung reports that within 24 hours on Tuesday, a further 112 people were admitted to hospital for treatment and 24 people died. The number of people in intensive care has increased by 14 since Monday July 18th.

The Upper Austrian Chamber of Commerce has also raised the alarm that hospital staff are “more and more at the limit” and is calling for additional staff to relieve the pressure.

The Wiener Zeitung reports that even before the pandemic, there was a nursing shortage of 2,500 personnel in Upper Austria.

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The number of Covid-19 infections in Austria currently stands at 109,058 and national seven-day incidence rate is 943, according to AGES. In Vienna, the incidence rate is 1,257 and in Burgenland it is 1,057. The lowest rate is in Carinthia at 644.

The Health and Interior Ministries reported 11,758 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, reports ORF.

Since the start of the pandemic, 20,198 people have died from Covid-19 in Austria, with most deaths in people aged 75 and over.