INDIANAPOLIS — Recent reports of fully vaccinated athletes and lawmakers testing positive for COVID-19 are catching people’s attention.
On Thursday morning, Indiana University President Pamela Whitten said she tested positive and is experiencing mild symptoms after being fully vaccinated for many months.
Health experts say the risk of so-called “breakthrough” cases is extremely low.
“The fact that we are seeing breakthrough cases doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working,” said Dr. Peter Embí, president and CEO of the Regenstrief Institute.
A look at Indiana’s vaccine dashboard shows how small the percentage is.
Only one-tenth of one percent of fully vaccinated Hoosiers tested positive for COVID-19 (0.110%). That’s nearly 3,200 cases. Of those cases, 152 people required hospitalization and 46 died. The average age of those deaths is 79.
Despite the small percentage, there has been an uptick across the country over the last two weeks. It’s not clear yet if that’s being caused by the much more infectious delta variant.
“There is some early evidence coming out that maybe the vaccines, while they are still very effective against the delta variant, are slightly a little less effective than others and we are going to learn more about that as time goes on,” Embí said.
Since none of the vaccines are 100 percent effective, breakthrough cases were expected, but in most of the cases, people experienced mild to no symptoms at all. That’s because their immune systems didn’t have to start from scratch to fight the virus. It reduces the severity of the illness.
“There are going to be some people who still get infected, but the numbers of people should be very low among those that get vaccinated and they are,” Embí said. “Also, the level of sickness they experience should be extremely low and indeed, that is what we are seeing.”
Experts say to reduce breakthrough cases, it will take more people getting vaccinated so further mutations of the virus can be prevented.
Health officials are also keeping a close eye on these breakthrough cases, especially serve ones to see if a booster shot is needed and if the protection from the vaccine is fading.
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