Breakthrough COVID cases: Doctor explains your chances of contracting virus after vaccination

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. -- As the Delta variant spreads, we are learning more about breakthrough COVID-19 cases.

Numbers from California's state health department help put into perspective what the chances are of getting coronavirus after being vaccinated -- and just how risky it is.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 20.7 million Californians have been fully vaccinated. Roughly 14,000 of those people (about 1 in every 1,441) have since contracted COVID-19.

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A fraction of those, 843, have led to hospitalizations. Even fewer, 88, have led to death. (That number could even be less, as health officials caution that in some of these cases it is unclear if COVID-19 was the primary cause of death.)

In gist: It's still extraordinarily rare, about a 1 in 235,227 chance you'll die from coronavirus after being vaccinated, according to the latest data.

"It's important for people to recognize that the vaccine is very strongly protective against severe illness and death," Dr. Matt Willis, public health director for Marin County in Northern California told our sister station KGO-TV. "And when we are seeing these breakthrough cases they are asymptomatic, no symptoms at all, or mildly symptomatic like cold symptoms."

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He says a vast majority of the hospitalizations of vaccinated people are among the elderly or immunocompromised.

Willis added that his county has seen no association between the type of vaccine a person received and whether they are at higher risk for a breakthrough case.

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Dr. Willis said people need to remember immunity should be thought of as a continuum, and the vaccine as a dimmer switch.

"It's more like a dimmer switch than it is a light switch. It's not an on and off. It's on a continuum of protection," he said. "And I think that's an important message because otherwise, people might interpret breakthrough cases as a sign the vaccine is not effective."
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