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Background The extent to which vaccinated persons who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 contribute to transmission is unclear. During a SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant outbreak among incarcerated persons with high vaccination rates in a federal prison, we assessed markers of viral shedding in vaccinated and unvaccinated persons. Methods Consenting incarcerated persons with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection provided mid-turbinate nasal specimens daily for 10 consecutive days and reported symptom data via questionnaire. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), viral whole genome sequencing, and viral culture was performed on these nasal specimens. Duration of RT-PCR positivity and viral culture positivity was assessed using survival analysis. Results A total of 978 specimens were provided by 95 participants, of whom 78 (82%) were fully vaccinated and 17 (18%) were not fully vaccinated. No significant differences were detected in duration of RT-PCR positivity among fully vaccinated participants (median: 13 days) versus those not fully vaccinated (median: 13 days; p=0.50), or in duration of culture positivity (medians: 5 days and 5 days; p=0.29). Among fully vaccinated participants, overall duration of culture positivity was shorter among Moderna vaccine recipients versus Pfizer (p=0.048) or Janssen (p=0.003) vaccine recipients. Conclusions As this field continues to develop, clinicians and public health practitioners should consider vaccinated persons who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 to be no less infectious than unvaccinated persons. These findings are critically important, especially in congregate settings where viral transmission can lead to large outbreaks.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

This study was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.


The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

This activity was reviewed and approved by the Research Review Board of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons. This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy. See e.g., 45 C.F.R. part 46.102(l)(2), 21 C.F.R. part 56; 42 U.S.C. 241(d); 5 U.S.C. 552a; 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.

I confirm that all necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived, and that any patient/participant/sample identifiers included were not known to anyone (e.g., hospital staff, patients or participants themselves) outside the research group so cannot be used to identify individuals.


I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).


I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.


Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv

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