Tampa health experts weigh in on vaccine breakthrough cases

Older people getting vaccinated
Posted at 5:30 PM, Apr 16, 2021

Millions of Americans have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, which health experts say is highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and even death. Still, the CDC says they’re looking into cases of vaccine breakthroughs.

In the US, more than 75 million people are now fully vaccinated. The CDC explains you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your last dose in that vaccine series. The CDC sent ABC Action News new data on breakthrough cases, explaining those cases are defined as someone who gets COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, about 5,800 breakthrough cases have been reported to the CDC.

“I think this is one more example of the continued litany of information that we’ve been seeing on and on and on about how great these vaccines have been working, how safe they are, and how effective they are, and I would really encourage everybody to take advantage of this,” said Distinguished USF Health professor Dr. Thomas Unnasch.

Breaking it down further, the CDC says 29% of vaccine breakthrough infections were reported as asymptomatic, seven percent of people with breakthrough infections were known to be hospitalized, while one percent died.

The CDC noted these breakthrough infections make up a very small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated.

“I think what it’s telling you is that if you get the vaccine, the chances that you’re going to get sick at all are about 100 times less than if you don’t get the vaccine and you take your chances,” said Unnasch. “And even if you do get sick, chances are it’s going to be a pretty mild disease and you’re not really going to suffer much from it.”

“I can’t think of any vaccines that are 100% effective,” said Dr. Andrew Myers, TGH Director of Inpatient COVID Care.

For the fully vaccinated, safety precautions are still important and recommended. Dr. Myers explained why.

“As long as we still have it as widespread in the community as we do here in Hillsborough County, in Florida, and throughout the US and internationally as well, until those numbers go down, there’s still a decent chance of being exposed to the virus because it’s in the community so much. And we want everyone to continue to use six feet, wear a mask to help prevent spreading it if you do happen to have it,” said Myers.

The CDC says it’s monitoring reported cases for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage. But so far, it says no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics.