COVID-19 breakthrough cases: What you should know

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As of August 23, more than 171 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Among the vaccinated, there are more than 10,000 reported “breakthrough” cases, which is defined as testing positive for COVID-19 once fully vaccinated (two or more weeks after receiving the second vaccine dose).

Medical professionals and public health experts expect these cases with mass vaccination programs. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but the medical community rejoiced when the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines proved to be more than 90 percent effective against the coronavirus.

The vaccine rollout has been successful, but breakthrough cases occur. Breakthrough cases are rare, and a breakthrough hospitalization or unfortunate death is even more rare.

“Individuals testing positive after vaccination experience less severe symptoms, if any at all,” says Dr. Jason Whateley, a primary care physician with McLaren Port Huron. “This has kept the vast majority of breakthrough cases from having to be hospitalized, and it has kept them from dying.”

This has prompted public health experts to assure people that the vaccines are working as they’re designed to.

While the symptoms associated with unvaccinated COVID-19 remain largely unchanged, researchers from the ZOE COVID Symptoms study have been tracking the most common symptoms reported in vaccinated breakthrough cases:
Runny nose
Sore throat
Loss of smell

These symptoms differ from the most common symptoms still reported by unvaccinated COVID-19 patients:
Persistent cough
Shortness of breath
Muscle/Body aches
Loss of taste/smell

The benefits of being fully vaccinated have been well documented, with health professionals urging everyone eligible to get one of the safe and effective vaccines.