Can fully vaccinated people still get COVID-19?

Posted at 8:14 AM, Apr 06, 2021

(WXYZ) — Over 143 million COVID-19 doses have been administered here in the U.S. As more and more Americans get their shots, many are wondering just how common it is for vaccinated people to get infected with the virus.

Breakthrough cases are happening. That’s when a person who's been fully vaccinated gets infected with the virus. But don’t let that scare you. Because two real-world studies show that the risk overall is quite small. Now, the one study involved the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Over 8,000 employees participated and all were fully vaccinated - meaning they got both doses. So how many of them ended up testing positive for COVID? Four people - only four people. Now the other study involved health care workers at two University of California campuses. Just over 14,600 of them were tested after receiving two vaccine doses. And only 37 of them tested positive. Overall, the researchers concluded that the estimate of testing positive was about 1% for these health care workers. So yes, breakthrough cases can happen but are considered rare.

The California study did find that a few of the infected workers developed symptoms. But most were mild. And I’m not surprised because that’s what the clinical trials indicated - that most breakthrough cases were mild. In fact, some vaccinated people have no symptoms at all. They only discovered they had the virus because of testing before medical procedures or testing in studies. So this shows that the vaccines are doing what they are intended to do. To keep you out of the hospital and out of the morgue. And so far, they are pretty effective at doing that. This is why I can’t stress enough how important it is for folks to get vaccinated.

The CDC is actually studying breakthrough cases to see if variants are at the root of them. But to me, the key takeaway is not to point at these breakthrough cases and say, ‘hey, the vaccines aren’t working that great.' They do work but how effective it is can range. Some of that could be due to people having weaker immune systems. Possibly because of medications or illness which interferes with the body’s ability to build a robust immune response. But overall, those who are vaccinated should feel safer, but know that they’re not ironclad against the virus. And that’s why fully vaccinated folks will still need to follow pandemic precautions like wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and social distancing from those who are not vaccinated.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.