Doctors: Why some fully-vaccinated people still get COVID-19

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – More than one hundred South Carolinians have test positive for COVID-19 despite receiving both a first and second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Doctors say there was some known potential for people to test positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control is calling them “breakthrough” cases, meaning the patients have completed the vaccination process before testing positive for the virus.
State health officials say there have been 134 such cases so far in the Palmetto State and they’re expecting the number to grow.

Health officials say they are working to get a handle on the new problem. In the Lowcountry, doctors say roughly ten “breakthrough” patients were admitted last week at Roper St. Francis hospital with two additional patients being admitted on Monday.

Dr. Kent Stock, an Infectious Disease Physician at Roper St. Francis Hospital says the cases were a result of exposure to the virus. Patients “had evidence of natural infection, despite at least one dose of the vaccine.”

Doctors say it’s wasn’t unexpected for fully vaccinated patients to contract COVID-19. Studies show 6% of those receiving the Pfizer vaccine could still test positive after receiving their second dose. Dr. Stock says the good news for those contracting the virus, the vaccine is helping to lessen symptoms for those who become ill.

“Even those who were hospitalized have gone home,” says Dr. Stock. “None of them were ultimately intubated, none of them ultimately died which is very, very encouraging.”

DHEC says the 134 known “breakthrough” cases in the state account for just .05% of the state’s vaccinated population. Despite the low rate of infection, doctors say they are working to learn what is causing the cases.

“Is it a failure to respond to the vaccine or are the variants potentially playing a role?” says Dr. Stock.

The latest infection has many wondering about their vaccine status and if they need an additional dose or booster shot. Dr. Stock says if you’ve received both doses of the vaccine you don’t need any additional vaccine but says if you test positive before getting your second shot, you could have to wait longer before you’re able to make an appointment.

“If you are still significantly sick, they would defer it for at least an additional period of time,’ says Dr. Stock. “Potentially as long as three months.”

Doctors say this shouldn’t shake people’s confidence in the vaccine, they say it’s likely there will be more of the “breakthrough” cases as the number of administered vaccines increases.

“There are still individuals that will get infected despite undergoing the vaccine,” says Dr. Stock.

As far as positive cases holding up the vaccination process, Dr. Stock says each individual is handled on a case-by-case basis.

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