Fully COVID-19 Vaccinated, But Infected: How Does This Happen?

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Dear Pastor D.M.,

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to so many doing as much as they can to prevent themselves from getting sick. I and my husband have taken every major precaution to avoid sickness as much as possible. I received my COVID-19 vaccine doses in March and April, respectively. Unfortunately, I discovered last week after having body aches, chills, and a fever that I’ve come down with COVID.

I’m furious because I believed I was doing the right thing when I received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The Pfizer has been said to have reduced side effects as compared to the Moderna. All my friends explained the multiple symptoms with their Moderna doses, and I decided to get the Pfizer in order to reduce the side effects. I didn’t want to miss a day or two of work, seeing as my vacation days have been reduced since coming back into the office this Spring.

Now, I’m infected. My husband is sick with COVID, too. Thankfully, we don’t have any children in the house, but it’s still frustrating to have. I thought for sure that the vaccine would prevent me from getting infected in the first place. Did my vaccine doses just not work as they should have? Am I just a rare breakthrough case? How did this happen?

Any advice or info you could offer would help me greatly. I appreciate your work so far on covering the COVID-19 vaccine and the terrible pandemic we are in. Looking forward to your response. Take care, Pastor, and be blessed.

Signed, a concerned citizen

Dear Concerned Citizen,

I can only imagine the frustration of dealing with COVID-19 post-vaccination. I want to say first that our hearts go out to you and your husband as you both battle this terrible sickness. We’re praying that you all have mild symptoms (or as few as possible) and that you both recover quickly from this.

I want to answer your questions because you bring up a point that is missed with so many who find themselves in your position. They too, have been vaccinated earlier this year, and they now find themselves infected with COVID-19, wondering how this could happen to them.

With that said, let’s provide the answers you’re longing for.

the covid-19 vaccine: designed with initial variants in mind

The COVID-19 vaccine (or vaccines) is designed with initial variants in mind. What this means is that prior to the arrival of the Delta variant in the US, the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants have been the forms of COVID that we’ve had to fight against. The Delta variant is an entirely new beast when it comes to the COVID battle. Just this week, the CDC has now said that it recommends face masks for everyone in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination. And despite the fact that the CDC says some settings need not mandate the face mask, I know that I will be masking up in all of them — whether in the presence of family, friends, or otherwise.

The Delta variant is said to pose a huge problem for the current COVID-19 vaccine roundup. A breakout in Massachusetts last month saw over 400 people come down with COVID-19. Of those 469 people who were infected, seventy-four percent are fully vaccinated. A Twin Cities woman recently found herself stuck in Mexico after testing positive for COVID before she left the country. “I guess I misunderstood the point of receiving a vaccine,” she said.

I say all this to say that you’re not alone. A lot of these breakthrough infections (as they call them) are a result of the new Delta variant of COVID that has arrived in the US. And with a COVID vaccine developed months before anyone could anticipate the new Delta strain, the vaccine technology hasn’t yet caught up with the constantly-mutating coronavirus itself. What this means is that, at some point, a booster dose will be necessary. The Delta variant is starting to tear at the seams of the current COVID-19 vaccine doses.

So with that said, your frustration is normal. Current estimates of vaccinated persons who have been infected with COVID-19 now stand at between 111,000 (per Bloomberg News) and 125,000 (per CNBC). Keep in mind, these are reported cases of COVID-19 that were discovered through COVID testing or symptoms. COVID also has asymptomatic transmission in its arsenal, meaning that there could be thousands sick with COVID currently that are displaying next to no symptoms and have yet to visit the doctor because of them. Even without symptoms, infected people can get COVID and spread it, too.

COVID-19 vaccine does not prevent infection, but reduces risk of infection, hospitalization, and death

It is this last point that I’ve discovered many simply either 1) don’t know or 2) are soon to forget. What is it? The COVID-19 vaccine(s) does not prevent infection, but reduces the risk of infection, hospitalization, and death. The vaccine is not designed to prevent infection. In fact, it’s been said that clinical trials were not done regarding whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine prevents infection. To get the vaccine to Emergency Authorization Use (EAU) status, drugmakers focused on the vaccine’s effect on hospitalization and death: that is, how the vaccine reduces risk and symptoms. Think about it: reducing risks is more feasible and attainable a goal in such a short time than preventing infection. When you want a vaccine quickly approved to handle a pandemic that has now killed over 600,000 Americans, you have to move quickly. Certain lofty goals are shelved because people want a solution right away. It would likely take at least 5-10 years to prove the vaccine’s effect on preventing infection.

So with that said, the current round of vaccines do not do that. This means that, even fully vaccinated, you’re still very much at risk of getting and spreading COVID. Of course, the current medical consensus is that you have a 90% + reduced risk of getting COVID. Your symptoms are “likely” (key word here) reduced or next to none in the event that you do get COVID. Due to overrun hospitals and ICUs, the vaccine is said to reduce the risk of severe symptoms that would require someone to end up in the hospital.

There is no way to ensure that you won’t get COVID, even fully vaccinated. The vaccine doesn’t keep you from getting COVID. I was told by someone recently that went to their doctor that, “once you get fully vaccinated, you can’t get COVID.” Those were the actual words. I’m hoping the individual misspoke and that the doctor didn’t tell them this, but it goes to show my next and final point.

what the covid-19 vaccine actually does isn’t communicated clearly and in detail

Most of us are told to go to the doctor when we get sick or to talk with our doctor when things happen that we can’t explain or stop. So we value the medical authorities over us and their expert opinion. And there’s no crime in deferring to medical authorities for medical problems. I talk with my aunt, a long-time Registered Nurse (RN), about the pandemic and the vaccine.

However, there have been a large number of cases in the news as of late that make me think that many of us either 1) don’t ask the right questions or 2) aren’t given enough detail in the answers.

I say this because of the woman above who is stuck in Mexico with COVID. “I guess I misunderstood the point of receiving a vaccine.” This is an apt quote to place here because it shows that the woman didn’t understand what the COVID-19 vaccine is designed to do.

Like you, she too believed that it would prevent infection and that she was relatively safe from getting infected. And it’s not just the two of you; so many others have said the same thing.

Until the media started to expose the assumption, few statements were made about the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t 100% effective. But it isn’t. And getting both doses doesn’t make you invincible.

I’ll leave you with the words of the CDC regarding the Delta variant:

“The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and be an opportunist. In rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others…this new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations…if you have a vaccinated individual who is in a place with substantial or high transmission — and they’re contacting a lot of people — 1 in 20 or 1 in 10 could possibly lead to a breakthrough infection, even with a vaccine that’s 90 to 95% effective.”

Thank you so much for writing us here at The Essential Church. We bid you godspeed. And if you ever want to reach out again, please feel free to do so. Please continue to talk with your doctor, and send us an update on your recovery if possible. God bless.

Do you have a question to ask Pastor D.M. about the COVID-19 pandemic or the vaccine? Please feel free to hit Contact on the main page and send an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

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