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Omicron and a Typology of “Breakthrough Infections”

What Do You Mean, “Breakthough”?

It’s amazing to me how much damage a badly-chosen scientific term can do, in a high-consequence scientific field such as COVID-19 epidemiology. The term “Breakthrough infection”, which quickly filtered from journal literature on vaccine effectiveness to public media, turns out to be so poorly defined that it even confuses scientific discussions, and when it enters public discourse it engenders mostly misinformation and panic. It is downright daft terminology, which is unfortunately as ineradicable now as the virus itself. In this post, I’d like to at least try to fix it a little, so the damn term can do some useful work for a change.

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