You've probably seen the headlines about people who were fully vaccinated but still contracted COVID-19: in my hometown of St. Louis, a woman contracted COVID a month after receiving her second dose of the vaccine, and a New York City man tested positive two weeks after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Can You Still Get COVID-19 If You're Fully Vaccinated?
Yes, it's still possible to get COVID-19, even if you've been fully vaccinated, in what experts are calling breakthrough infections. Although it seems alarming, none of the vaccines are 100 percent effective against contracting COVID; Pfizer is 95 percent effective, Moderna is 94 percent effective, and Johnson & Johnson is about 66 percent effective (although 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death).
Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), said during a White House press briefing on March 26 to expect these infections. "You will see breakthrough infections in any vaccination when you're vaccinating literally tens and tens and tens of millions of people," Dr. Fauci said. "So, in some respects, that's not surprising."
In April, the CDC reported about 5,800 fully vaccinated people have gotten infected with COVID. However, in May, the CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases to only identifying and investigating hospitalized or fatal breakthrough cases of COVID-19.
As of June 28, the CDC reports that more than 154 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the US. Of those, the CDC received reports of 4,686 cases of people with breakthrough COVID-19 cases who have been hospitalized or died, however, it noted that the data might not be complete or representative.
Can You Get the Delta Variant If You're Fully Vaccinated?
With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading — it now accounts for more than half of all new COVID cases, the CDC has estimated — you may be worried if you are protected against infection, even if you have been fully vaccinated. After all, the Delta strain is twice as infectious as previous strains of COVID-19.
However, Andy Slavitt, former senior adviser to Joe Biden's Covid Response Team, told CNN that if you've been fully vaccinated, the Delta strain "presents very little threat to you, [it is] very unlikely that you're gonna get sick."
"We should think about the Delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids," he said. "Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the Delta variant in its tracks: it's called vaccine." Two preliminary studies in independent labs testing the COVID-19 vaccines against the Delta strain found that the vaccines provide protection against the contagious variant and reduce hospitalizations, NBC News reports. However, the studies haven't been peer reviewed.
Why You Should Still Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19
Even with breakthrough cases possible, it's still important to get vaccinated to prevent severe sickness, hospitalization, and death and to protect those around you. A July 6 study from the University of Utah Health reports that people who received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are up to 91 percent less likely to develop COVID-19 than people who haven't been vaccinated. The study also found that people who still get stick with COVID-19 in a breakthrough case have reduced symptoms and are sick for a shorter period of time compared to those who haven't been vaccinated.
As of May 28, the CDC advises that people who have been fully vaccinated (outside of healthcare settings) can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by local laws and regulations, including local businesses and workplaces. They can also resume domestic travel without having to test before and after travel or quarantine after travel. However, it also recommends people get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even if they've been fully vaccinated.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.