Health officials say breakthrough COVID-19 infections are rare; vaccinations still encouraged

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:43 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With COVID-19 cases surging and the more contagious Delta variant spreading, there’s concern about breakthrough infections.

Breakthrough COVID-19 infections are when a person tests positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated. Right now there’s concern that these breakthrough infections could discourage those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated from getting the shot.

NBC15 checked with state health officials to find out how common breakthrough COVID-19 infections are and found that they aren’t common at all.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that less than 1% of fully vaccinated Americans experience a breakthrough infection.

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services say Wisconsin’s data shows similar trends.

According to DHS, from January 1, 2021 to July 22, 2021, there were less than 2% of breakthrough COVID-19 cases in the state of Wisconsin. This means about 98% of COVID-19 cases in the state during that time period were among people who were not fully vaccinated.

“In the rare instance when someone tests positive after vaccination, their symptoms tend to me mild or non- existent and risk of hospitalization and death is far lower,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, DHS Deputy Secretary.

Local health officials continue encouraging vaccination. “We’ll see severe disease in people who are not vaccinated, and I think we’ll see amplification and movement of the virus in those individuals to begin with. Because of that, it’s likely there will be continued spread and transmission of Delta,” UW-Health’s Dr. Nasia Safdar.

There is also renewed concern for nursing homes and long term care facilities, which were hardest hit at the beginning of the pandemic.

Helen Marks Dicks with AARP Wisconsin says vaccination rates among nursing home staff are not as high as they should be.

June data shows less than 15% of facilities in Wisconsin have at least 75% of its staff vaccinated. “I find it very disrespectful that staff is not getting vaccinated,” said Dicks.

Dr. Safdar says the best strategy is to continue to make the vaccine widely available. “We must try to persuade hearts and minds for people who are not quite sure that they want to get vaccinated,” she said.

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