Vaccine will dramatically reduce risk, but its still possible to get COVID-19
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can still test positive for the virus. It’s what health officials call vaccine breakthrough cases.
New numbers from the CDC show 1,949 breakthrough cases of COVID involving hospitalization or death have been confirmed among the vaccinated population. Of that number – 18 percent of the cases were fatal.
“None of the vaccines are 100 percent effective,” said Dr. William Hathaway, Chief Medical Officer for Mission Hospital.
Dr. Hathaway said the vaccines are working exactly as scientists predicted.
“They dramatically reduce your likelihood of being infected, but they don’t completely eliminate it,” he told News 13.
Because of that, its not surprising that people who have been fully vaccinated are still testing positive for COVID.
“The number of cases is very, very small and those who are infected after vaccination have some immunity, and so the severity of their illness is also dramatically reduced,” said Dr. Hathaway.
Hathaway even said theyve seen examples of this amongst staff.
“We’ve had employees at Mission, a handful of employees, who we know were vaccinated and then were infected early on. Others have been infected later on,” he said.
Henderson County reports seeing some, too.
“So, we have had cases where people test positive for COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated reported to us,” said Crystal O’Dell, Henderson County’s director of nursing.
ODell said although rare – its happening.
Less than 20 cases have been reported to the Henderson County Health Department.
No one died or had to be hospitalized, and, so far, none have met state criteria.
“Right now, to report to the state they have to have genetic sequencing complete on that testing sample and, unfortunately, by the time the positive has been reported to us, the sample has degraded to the point where it can’t be genetically sequenced,” added O’Dell.
Because of that, it means the number of breakthrough cases in North Carolina is likely being under-reported right now.
In an email on May 18, we asked the state health department if that was case, and, if so, why that was happening. We never got a response back to that.
However, in an email to News 13 back on April 7, a spokesperson for NCDHHS wrote, “As of April 5, we were aware of 111 breakthrough cases in North Carolina that have met the CDC’s definition, including 7 known hospitalizations, and sadly one death.”
Then, on May 3, we received another emailed response stating, “A linkage of vaccine and case data from April 19 identified 578 likely breakthrough cases.”
“The most important number is what the state is going to consider a breakthrough case or not,” added O’Dell.
Its not just happening in North Carolina.
Recently, HBO host and comedian Bill Maher posted a tweet. It revealed he tested positive for COVID despite receiving the vaccine.
It came at the same time as a handful of vaccinated New York Yankees players also tested positive.
"I dont know anything specific about the ball team. We do know, of course, that the vaccines are incredibly effective, but not 100%. So, you are going to see people who are fully vaccinated who still get sick,” said Dr. Francis Collins, Director for the NIH.
It can be worrisome, but all healthcare providers agree that your best bet is to just get the shot.
“You can still get COVID-19 if you’re vaccinated, but the good news is you won’t be as sick as you might have been if you weren’t vaccinated,” said O’Dell.
So far, in the U.S., 125 million people have been fully vaccinated, which means those breakthrough cases account for fewer than one in 64,000 vaccinated people.
As for the demographic and people testing positive after being fully vaccinated, it’s a wide range and hard for doctors to pinpoint why it happens to some and not others.
Going forward, doctors say they are more worried about the vaccine not being able to recognize one of the new variants of the virus.