ORLANDO, Fla. – They’re called COVID-19 breakthrough cases: People who have been fully vaccinated yet still contract the virus more than 14 days after their second shot.
The cases are popping up around the country, including in Central Florida, News4Jax sister station WKMG-TV reported. Though as News4Jax has previously reported, medical experts have never promised that getting a vaccination will provide 100% immunity.
Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Foundation, compared the COVID-19 vaccine to the flu vaccine.
“It’s like the flu shot, for instance, right. We know, we encourage people to get the flu vaccine. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get the flu. But the disease’s significantly lessened,” Joshi said. “So remember, the whole goal for this, from the very beginning, has been to keep people out of the hospital. And so anything positive after the vaccine is not unusual, it can happen.”
Joshi said vaccines are good at preventing severe illness over 90% from Moderna and Pfizer and over 86% for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“By doing that, we are assuming extrapolating that that means that it’s helpful at preventing the spread of the virus as well,” Joshi said. “But you really do need to look at more longer-term studies to see how helpful it is at preventing that.”
Earlier this month, the Minnesota Department of Health released a health advisory stating that, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is investigating COVID-19 infections among people who are “appropriately vaccinated,” also called vaccine breakthrough cases, according to the advisory.
WKMG checked and the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County has six documented breakthrough cases while Sumter County has six and Lake County has 26 cases, according to emails from each county’s spokesperson.
News4Jax asked all the health departments in Jacksonville-area counties if there have been any breakthrough cases, but did not get a response as of Tuesday afternoon. We also invited Mayor Lenny Curry to come on the show, but he declined the request.
Hanna Rewerts, 27, is a physical therapist and has been tested for COVID-19 at least once a week since the pandemic started.
She says she got her first positive test just days ago.
“I was shocked, you know,” Rewerts said. “Immediately I’m like, ‘This has to be a false-positive. This can’t be right.’”
But multiple tests confirmed it.
She said she was shocked because she is also fully vaccinated.
As a health care worker, Rewerts had her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020, according to her vaccine card. Her second dose was three weeks later in January.
More than two months after the second shot, she contracted the virus.
“So it’s just, it’s very odd,” Rewerts said.
Dr. Timothy Hendrix, with Advent Health, also pointed out that it is possible for someone who is fully vaccinated to still contract the virus.
“It is possible because no vaccine is perfect,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix stressed that both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective, though.
“The good news is for that very small amount of people that might become infected, that less than 5%, the chances of severe disease is next to zero,” Hendrix said.
Breakthrough cases are not specific to COVID-19 and can happen with any vaccine, according to experts.
Rewerts said three of her family members who were also fully vaccinated contracted it as well.
“One of my family members actually went to the hospital,” Rewerts said. “I mean, that’s pretty severe enough to be concerned about the vaccine.”
Rewerts said the Florida Department of Health is testing to see whether she may have been infected by one of the COVID-19 variants that has made it to Florida.
She said for now, she and her family will continue social distancing and wearing masks.
“I don’t think the public is aware that it doesn’t mean you’re not getting the virus, and it doesn’t mean you’re not getting sick. There is still a chance,” Rewerts said.
Researchers are still trying to figure out if people who are fully vaccinated and contract the virus can also spread it to other people, which is why they recommend still wearing masks even after you’re vaccinated.
Even after vaccination, doctors recommend taking all the necessary precautions, such as thoroughly washing your hands, and of course, wearing a mask.