UC study finds similarities in COVID viral loads between vaccinated, unvaccinated people

Local News

(KTXL) — A new study by UC Davis and UC San Francisco scientists is calling attention to the viral similarities between those who contracted COVID-19, despite their vaccination status. 

Researchers looked at nearly 900 positive infections of the delta variant in a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals — and what they found was surprising.

“People who are positive for COVID had similar levels of virus, irrespective of symptoms or vaccination status,” University of California project scientist David Coil told FOX40.

Coil explained that the similarities in viral load among those who got the COVID-19 vaccine and those who did not underscore the possibility of people being able to transmit the virus regardless of vaccination status.

“I think what our data does say is that there is still a risk that vaccinated individuals can transmit to others, so public health guidelines need to take that into consideration,” Coil advised.

Despite the viral load similarities, Coil said those who are vaccinated do not spread COVID-19 at the same rate as unvaccinated people. That’s because the vaccinated are less likely to test positive for the virus than those who choose not to receive the vaccine.

“We’re only looking at the people who were infected, who were positive,” Coil explained. “Vaccines still prevent you from getting infected in the first place. It’s just of the people, the much small subset of people who get infected, many of them still have a significant amount of virus and can potentially transmit to others.”

The study does raise new concerns about asymptomatic spread, especially in public places indoors like classrooms.

“It concerns me in particular with schools because we have kids in our data set, totally asymptomatic — you would never know — who appear to be shedding significant amounts of virus,” Coil said. “And so, in a situation where you had a classroom where masking wasn’t enforced, that’s a recipe for transmission, and that’s what we’d like to try and avoid.”

Coil said he hopes safety precautions will remain in place in high-risk areas.

“People should still consider interventions like social distancing and masking, even if they are vaccinated and even if they’re not showing symptoms because they can still be carrying significant amounts of virus,” Coil advised.

The study is in line with other research following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation over the summer to mask up, regardless of vaccination status, in areas where the virus is more likely to spread. 

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