Breakthrough cases: Experts explain why you can still catch COVID even if you’re fully-vaccinated

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s no myth – doctors say you can still get infected with COVID-19 if you’re vaccinated against the virus.

Even when everything is working exactly as it should, fully-vaccinated people can still contract coronavirus in so-called “vaccine breakthrough cases.”

Right now, with more than 37% of the country fully vaccinated, we’re hearing rare stories of when the COVID-19 vaccine didn’t stop the disease.

Ariel Silver of Illinois got sick after both her girls were infected.

“I was very surprised because I thought that being fully vaccinated, I would not get it,” Mrs. Silver said.

Dr. John Greene, the chief of infectious diseases at Moffitt Cancer Center, says the COVID vaccines are up to 95% effective. That means about one in 20 people who are fully vaccinated could still get COVID-19 if exposed to the virus.

So why is this happening? Experts say it’s because no vaccine is 100% effective.

The other reason is it typically takes about two weeks, or 14 days after completing all recommended doses, for the body to build protection after vaccination. So an individual could get sick if the vaccine has not had enough time to build protection.

It’s also believed variants are responsible for some breakthrough cases.

Dr. Greene says when the vaccinated do catch COVID-19, it’s typically a mild case.

“The main thing a vaccine does, more so than keeping you from ever catching a virus, is it prevents you from getting deathly ill,” Dr. Greene explained.

In extremely rare instances, the vaccinated could be hospitalized or even die from COVID-19.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of the 115 million reported vaccinations, 223 people died of COVID-19 after completing the recommended dose of the vaccine.

The actual count is likely higher, according to Dr. Greene.

“You can’t guarantee that the CDC is going to get all the information, so that’s why it’s passive reporting,” he said.

Dr. Greene says the vaccinated individuals getting sick or dying are mostly older or immunosuppressed.

For example, experts say if there are two people with the same comorbidities – one who is fully vaccinated and the other who is not – the risk of death in the fully-vaccinated person is much lower than the unvaccinated person.

“The bottom line is the vaccine is extremely effective, it’s way more effective than the flu vaccine and it’s definitely worth getting if you haven’t gotten it yet,” said Dr. Greene.

The CDC recommends everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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