Fact or Fiction: Are ‘breakthrough’ COVID cases common?

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 5:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - You may have heard about “breakthrough cases” or seen this topic in headlines recently.

The CDC describes a breakthrough infection as when someone who’s been fully vaccinated against COVID for at least two weeks has a positive test.

“While breakthrough cases are making headlines, they’re actually pretty rare. And not unexpected with any vaccine,” Roper Express Care Dr. Melissa Ellis-Yarian said.

“More than 97% of the patients currently being hospitalized and who have died from COVID are unvaccinated,” she said. “COVID has now become an illness of the unvaccinated. We can see that with data we have. That tells me two things as a doctor. One, the vaccine works amazingly well. And two, that our unvaccinated patients remain at great risk.”

The CDC reports more than 163 million people in the U.S. were fully vaccinated toward the end of July. The agency received reports of 6,587 breakthrough cases involving hospitalizations or deaths during that time frame.

That’s 0.004% of vaccinated people. 73% of those breakthrough cases were in people older than 65.

Ellis-Yarian added, “Just because you have some breakthrough cases- less than 1% of those vaccinated - it doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work.”

She reminds patients that the goal of the vaccine is to prevent severe illness and death.

“They’re safe, they’re effective, they work. And it’s 2021. We’ve had a lot of time to see if they would do anything weird. They don’t. What they do is they save your life,” Ellis-Yarian said.

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