TOPEKA (KSNT) – There are many questions still floating around when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine. One being, why can you still get infected even if you’ve been fully vaccinated?
Let’s go through a quick science lesson, simplifying how vaccines work. When you get the COVID-19 vaccine, it sends a message to your body to be on the lookout for the virus. Basically, the vaccine makes “bodyguards” to look for the “bad guy.” Once those “bodyguards” know what coronavirus looks like, they’re better prepared to fight it off. But sometimes, the virus is able to make it past the body’s line of defense. Here’s the catch though, with the vaccine, symptoms could look different.
“It has antibodies already circulating and, sort of, built-in memory to attack that virus,” Derik Flerlage said, the infectious disease division manager for the Shawnee County Health Department. “And either totally keep it away, or help you have a more mild infection or no infection at all.”
So, mild infection or no infection at all? How is that even possible?
“The vaccine, while it’s not 100 percent effective, it is still incredibly effective, 95 percent efficacy rate,” Flerlage said. “So people can still get the virus, but on a much lower level. So people have much more mild infections, or they’re not having symptoms at all.”
If people are fully vaccinated, how is the virus still being spread around?
“Those that are vaccinated, there is that small potential to carry the virus and potentially transmitted to others,” Flerlage said. “Now we’re talking about other people, maybe they are too young to be vaccinated. Maybe they have other immunosuppressed issues that would cause them, the higher chance has a higher risk. If they were to get the actual natural COVID-19 infection.”
If you can still get the virus after vaccination, what is the point?
“Maybe my vaccine has stopped transmission to a more vulnerable adult,” Flerlage said. “So vaccinating as many people as we can really help cut down on all of that as well, but it takes all of us together to do that.”
What should we do to avoid getting sick even with a vaccine? Flerlage said when you can’t social distance, wear a mask and still get vaccinated because the chances of getting the infection are possible but slim.
There’s a term for infection after vaccination, it’s called a breakthrough case. While COVID-19 vaccines are not 100 percent, they do have high efficacy rates. Even if you have a breakthrough case, they result in fewer hospitalizations and the need for ventilators.
The CDC reports as of June 7, 47 states had 3,459 people with a COVID-19 breakthrough, including hospitalization and deaths.
In Shawnee County, as of June 15, 71,365 people were fully vaccinated, and only 38 people had a breakthrough case.
The Shawnee County Health Department is doing what it can to make sure everyone has access to those vaccines this week. The health department and the Juneteenth Committee have partnered together to provide the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to people. This will take place on June 18 at the Evergy Plaza. They will be there from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The department will head to the Hillcrest neighborhood on June 19 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. This will also be the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This clinic is at the Hillcrest Community Center.