COVID-19 ‘breakthrough’ cases: What do symptoms look like and what we need to know


NEW JERSEY — Despite being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some people are still testing positive for the virus in what health officials call “breakthrough” cases.

At least 8,700 vaccinated New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19, the state’s health department told the Associated Press. While in New Jersey, the health department data reported more than 3,400 breakthrough cases. These cases, however, are both out of millions of fully vaccinated people.  

What do the symptoms of the breakthrough cases look like? President and CEO of University Hospital in Newark Dr. Shereef Elnahal explained what we need to know.

Breakthrough case symptoms

Vaccines have high efficacy rates, but they aren’t perfect. 

Elnahal said those who are fully vaccinated and contract COVID-19 have less severe symptoms and hospitalization rates and death rates are much lower.

“It is worth it” to get vaccinated, according to Elnahal.

Treatments for breakthrough cases

If you’re one of the people who contract COVID-19 while fully vaccinated, how do you treat isolation and what do the guidelines look like?

Spread is much less likely for those fully vaccinated, Elnahal said. However to be safe, the same guidelines should apply: staying at home or isolating for at least 10 days and at least 72 hours after your last fever.

Fully vaccinated, but exposed to someone with COVID-19

There’s never harm in being tested, despite being vaccinated, according to Dr. Elnahal.

He suggests everyone get tested if they suspect contracting COVID-19. 

Should Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients get a booster shot?

A new study suggested the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not be as effective against the delta variant.

Should they consider getting a booster shot? 

Dr. Elnahal said the FDA, the CDC and other health officials are studying the effectiveness of the J&J vaccine, so he does not want to get ahead of their findings.

He also said the priority for vaccination sites is getting more shots in the arms of those unvaccinated.

Mandating vaccines. Where do you stand with masks vs no masks?

Local jurisdictions should feel free to make decisions on whether indoor masking is needed, Elhanahl said. He urges everyone to follow local jurisdiction since they have more information on specific areas. 

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