Covid-19 infections in fully vaccinated people have come under increasing scrutiny as the virus once again surges across the country due to the more contagious Delta variant.
But those so-called breakthrough infections remain rare and may not even include any symptoms. Those who do have symptoms typically get a milder case, research shows.
Emily Baker Hurley and her family, including two young children, were among those rare cases. Baker Hurley told CNN affiliate KCRA that she regrets not continuing to wear a mask after getting her vaccine. “The kids have been really, really sick. One hundred and three (degree) fevers, diarrhea and vomiting,” Baker Hurley said. “It’s been especially scary with a baby.”
A breakthrough infection is defined as someone who tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 at least 14 days being fully vaccinated with either one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer and Moderna, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency says that, as with any vaccine, breakthrough cases are expected to happen with the coronavirus vaccine.
More than 163 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, or 49.1% of the population, according to the CDC. Over 97% of people getting hospitalized with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC said recently.
“The Covid-19 vaccines we have in the US do work very well. But no vaccine works 100% of the time,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said.
“If you have multiple encounters every day with unvaccinated people, and there is a high level of community transmission in your area, your chances of having a breakthrough infection after vaccination will increase.”
Wen said wearing a mask reduces that risk.
Mom regrets not staying masked up
Baker Hurley’s youngest daughter is only 9 months old. Both she and her 5-year-old sibling are too young to be vaccinated.
Despite her children’s illness, Baker Hurley believes getting vaccinated helped her and her husband, who has an underlying health condition, from becoming even sicker.
“Obviously my husband was not as sick as he would have been since we had the vaccine,” she said.
“This is a disease that has taken the lives of over 600,000 Americans and millions of people around the world,” Wen said. “If you get the vaccine, you know that you are very unlikely to become severely ill to the point of needing to be hospitalized or to succumb to the disease.”
TV anchor says vaccine reminds him ‘health is wealth’
An anchor at CNN affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta had a very similar experience.
Fred Blankenship posted his story on his Facebook page. He hadn’t been on air for a while, so he took to social media to explain the absence to his followers.
“While on vacation in California members of my immediate family came down with Covid. We took all the precautions, got the vaccinations and it still happened,” he said.
Blankenship explained that even though he was vaccinated, his symptoms were not as mild as he hoped, but getting his shot helped him from getting the worst of it.
“My doctor told me the fact that I got the vaccination and stayed in relatively good shape kept me out of the hospital. It’s been a big reminder that health is the true wealth,” he said.
Professor urges more people to get vaccinated
Adam Rothman, a history professor at Georgetown, told CNN that he and his wife are both breakthrough cases and their 10-year-old daughter also contracted the virus.
“Vaccines do generally seem to be effective and be instrumental, but I think that people need to understand they may not be 100% effective,” he said.
“But I would say If more people were vaccinated, it’s less likely that our daughter would have gotten the disease and being vaccinated, we hope, has kept me and my wife out of the hospital.”
Dr. Wen agreed with Rothman’s belief that if more people had the vaccine, less people would get sick overall.
“Your chance of becoming infected from a vaccinated person, if you’re also vaccinated, is virtually zero,” Wen said. “This is also why we have to see vaccination as not just an individual choice. Even if you’re vaccinated yourself, it matters if others around you are vaccinated, too.”
A CDC study conducted in June shows fully vaccinated people are more than 90% protected against infection. Even partially vaccinated people are 81% less likely to become infected than people who haven’t had been inoculated, according to the ongoing research.
The study tested more than 3,900 essential workers, and since December only 16 of the 204 people who became infected had been vaccinated.