Indiana doctors say rare breakthrough COVID cases prove the vaccine is working

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INDIANAPOLIS — As of June 23, the Indiana State Department of Health says 3,707 fully vaccinated Hoosiers have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, health experts say almost all of those Hoosiers are experiencing mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization.

“There’s a lot of reasons why our immune system may not be able to mount a response [to the vaccine],” said Dr. Shaun Grannis, Vice President of Data and Analytics with Regenstrief Institute. “Some people’s immune systems aren’t able to mount a response — they got cancer, they’re older, they’re on drugs or medications that weaken their immune system.”

Dr. Grannis explained that breakthrough cases of COVID-19 were to be expected.

“Yes, are there breakthrough cases? Of course, there are,” said Dr. Grannis. “Of course, there are because humans aren’t perfect and no medical intervention is perfect, but 99% is pretty darn good.”

The Indiana State Department of Health said only 0.11% of fully vaccinated Hoosiers have become a breakthrough case since vaccinations began six months ago.

Among the 3,707 fully vaccinated Hoosiers to get COVID-19, Dr. Grannis said studies show – without the vaccine – those same individuals would have been more likely to show up in an emergency department, become hospitalized, or die.

“Even though there are 3,000 breakthrough cases, the data suggests that the cases are milder, and they have fewer symptoms,” Dr. Grannis said.

“A couple of our old physicians who had got the vaccine back earlier this year actually did end up having a very mild case of the coronavirus,” said Chief Physician Executive, Dr. Ram Yeleti with Community Health Network. “They kind of had just a sore throat and a cough.”

Dr. Yeleti said he knows of at least two fully vaccinated colleagues that have gotten breakthrough COVID-19, and it is exactly why he is encouraging everyone to continue wearing masks – regardless of their vaccination status.

“This is where we still need to keep our guard just a little bit,” Dr. Yeleti said. “The idea of wearing your mask when you’re in public is still probably not unreasonable.”

Ultimately, both Dr. Yeleti and Dr. Grannis agree the best form of protection is still to get vaccinated.

“If you’re playing Russian roulette, why not do something to take the bullets out of the gun,” said Dr. Grannis. “And to take the bullets out of the gun you get vaccinated.”

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