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Here's why you can contract COVID-19 even after getting the vaccine

They're called "breakthrough cases": people who contract the virus after being fully immunized with a vaccine. We break down why it's happening and what you can do.

TAMPA, Fla. — At last check, more than 53 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Even so, some of those people will still contract the virus.

“Yeah, this is something we have expected. And you know, the problem is that there is no vaccine that's 100 percent," USF Health virologist Dr. Michael Teng said.

All of the approved COVID-19 vaccines have efficacy under 100 percent, meaning a very small minority will still contract the virus -- a "breakthrough case." Even so, the vaccine should help those people in another way.

"Even in those cases where it doesn't, completely protects you from symptomatic infection, it decreases the amount, the number of symptoms that you have, the severity of the symptoms, so that you don't have to worry so much about going to the hospital, or you know, ending up you know, ventilated," Teng said.

Unfortunately, there is no absolute way to know if you are going to be one of the "breakthrough cases." That's why health care professionals like Teng are saying COVID-19 protocols are still so important.  

“That's why masking is still important. That's why physical distancing is so important. That's why we're waiting for all of these measures that we're taking now to decrease the transmission rate," Teng said.

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“So once we decrease the transmission rate, then it's a little bit safer for us because there's less risk of getting, coming in contact with the virus, and getting infected," Teng said.

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