Breakthrough COVID-19 cases possible but rarity shows vaccine effectiveness

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RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – The number of people with testing positive and in the hospital with COVID-19 are on the decline in North Carolina. Dr. Thomas Holland, an associate professor of infectious disease at Duke has seen it first hand.

“Think about where we were a year ago with no knowledge that we had an effective vaccine on the horizon and no end in sight,” said Holland.

Vaccines are now in the arms of half of Americans. Still, some fully vaccinated people are getting COVID-19.

“There are still rare and occasional breakthrough infections. I think that’s especially the case in some of our patients who are immune-suppressed, who don’t have normal immune systems,” said Holland.

It’s a small minority according to new CDC data. Analyzing breakthrough cases from January to April, it found one in every 10,000 people became infected after full vaccination. Of those 10-percent were hospitalized and 27-percent had no symptoms.

Out of the more than 101 million vaccinations in that time period, just over 10,000 people became infected post-vaccination. Because people who asymptomatic are less likely to get tested, the number of people with breakthrough cases was likely to be higher than reported.

“It’s not a perfect vaccine but way better than the alternative which is not having protection from COVID,” said Holland.

The CDC reported variants make up 64-percent of breakthrough cases analyzed. The U.K. strain was the most common in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Holland said because variants are prevalent in unvaccinated people, they’re likely to be commonly found in breakthrough cases as well.

“It’s definitely the big worry that there’s going to be some kind of variant, some kind of mutation that makes the vaccine less effective,” said Holland.

Slowing vaccination rates are allowing the virus to continue evolving. For people who are still unsure about the vaccines, Holland suggest speaking with someone you trust who is informed about facts around the vaccine.

Building that trust with the vaccines could be the key in ending this pandemic.

“It’s really been wonderful in the last few months to start to slow down and to feel like gosh, we have some tools that actually work,” Holland said

Vaccine myths

Can I get COVID-19 through the COVID-19 vaccine?

The CDC says: No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine impact my ability to have a baby?

The CDC says: “Yes. If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you.

There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines.”

Does the COVID-19 vaccine alter DNA?

The CDC says: “No. COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.

There are currently two types of COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized and recommended for use in the United States: messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and a viral vector vaccine. Both mRNA and viral vector COVID-19 vaccines deliver instructions (genetic material) to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.”

Can the COVID-19 vaccine be used to track me?

There’s a lie that the vaccine will be used to insert a microchip in you so you can be tracked. 

CBS 17 reported in the past, there are RF-ID chips about the size of a grain of rice, and yes, they are injected under your skin using a hypodermic needle. 

But, that chip is invasive enough you would notice it right away, and although it’s used in pets, its use in humans is uncommon and very limited. 

People also connect the bar code on the syringe with a tracking device, but the bar code is just used to make sure the vaccine is authentic and not expired.  

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