How rare are COVID-19 breakthrough cases, and what if it happens to you?


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Monroe County, there is some concern about breakthrough cases. 

Breakthrough cases happen when a fully-vaccinated person is infected with the coronavirus disease, despite getting both shots. 

Health officials say these cases are rare and there isn’t reason to be hugely concerned about them. Experts remind you: no vaccine is 100% effective.

“Most of the time it’s mild and some of them are asymptomatic. But people expect the vaccine to be 100% effective, but we know from the research data that it is 94 percent against disease,” said Ghinwa Dumyati, a Professor of Medicine at URMC and Infectious Disease Physician. 

Dr. Dumyati said as cases continue to rise, it’s expected to see a rise in breakthrough cases too. 

“What is happening now, why we are seeing more covid breakthrough is we have a lot of people vaccinated, but we also have pockets of low vaccination and we are seeing a resurgence of covid, specifically with the delta variant.”

The delta variant currently accounts for 72% of new covid cases in New York, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The variant is more transmissible and could be playing a role in the breakthrough cases. 

Dr. Dumyati says locally, she’s only seen a handful of people with breakthrough cases. 

“The number of people that are having the vaccine breakthrough is very low compared to the millions that have been vaccinated.”

In New York, Gov. Cuomo said only .15% of fully-vaccinated New Yorkers have been infected with the delta variant. He emphasized that this is because vaccines work.

Health experts say getting the covid shot is your best option at avoiding severe illness or even death from the disease. Being fully-vaccinated can also help when it comes to breakthrough cases. 

“It’s going to prevent the majority from getting the disease at all, but the ultimate thing that it’s preventing is severe disease. Most of the people who are having breakthrough, many of them are asymptotic or very mildly symptomatic, some of them feel like they have the flu,” Dr. Dumyati said. 

Dr. Dumyati also encouraged people who are on the fence about getting vaccinated, to think about those around them.

“Even if you’re young I have heard that the young people think that I can get covid and recover, but think about the people around you. Even the vaccinated people like your grandmother, your immunocompromised aunt… their antibody level might not be really good. If you’re mildly sick, you can even infect them,” Dr. Dumyati said.

If you do get covid after being vaccinated, experts say to quarantine for 10 days, social distance and wear your mask. Dr. Dumyati said to talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

As of Monday, 75% of adults in New York are now fully-vaccinated. Roughly 3.5 million are unvaccinated. 

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