Harris Co. reports rare ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated people

Harris County Public Health has confirmed 3 ‘breakthrough cases’ of COVID-19 so far.  According to county health officials, these are people who test positive for COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.

"We’re not seeing a high number of cases occurring after complete vaccination," said Dr. David Callender, CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System.

County health officials say "fully vaccinated" means 2 or more weeks after a person receives their 2nd dose of the Pfizer or Morderna vaccine, or 2 or more weeks after receiving a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"The reason you get the vaccine is not so you don’t get COVID," said Dr. Joseph Varon, Chief Medical Officer at United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC).  "The reason why you get the vaccine is so you don’t get the (severe) COVID where you go to the COVID unit and could die."

The number of ‘breakthrough cases’ confirmed in Harris County doesn’t include any possible cases within Houston city limits.  According to Dr. Varon, UMMC has treated one Coronavirus patient who had been fully vaccinated.

"We recently had a case of gentleman who was a liver transplant recipient who had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccines," said Dr. Varon.  "Several weeks later, he developed COVID and ended up in our unit."

Doctors say people cannot contract COVID-19 from any of the 3 authorized vaccines.

"All 3 patients are women, ages 65-74, who contracted COVID-19 two to four weeks after completing their vaccine series," said a spokesperson from Harris County Public Health.  "None of them had severe illness or required hospitalization due to the illness.  Contact tracing did not find that any of the 3 transmitted the virus to any close contacts."

"Five out of every 100 people, no matter how many shots they get, [they’re] not going to be protected," said Dr. Varon.  "That’s one of the main reasons we insist to continue wearing your masks and social distancing and avoid going to crowded places for the time being."

"You will see breakthrough infections in any vaccination, when you're vaccinating literally tens and tens and tens of millions of people," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  "So, in some respects that's not surprising.  One of the important things that will be done and must be done is to sequence the genome of the virus that is the breakthrough virus."

More than 750,000 people are considered fully-vaccinated combined in Houston and Harris County.  So far, 3 ‘breakthrough cases’ have been confirmed outside Houston city limits.  We reached out to the Houston Health Department for their numbers, but so far haven’t received a response.

"The vaccinations appear to be very safe and very effective in preventing severe illness," said Dr. Callender.