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VERIFY: Rare instances of vaccinated people still getting COVID are expected

The vaccines have a 95% efficacy rate, meaning there will be few instances where vaccinated people contract COVID.

Reports of people being diagnosed with COVID-19 even after getting fully vaccinated have led to social media posts claiming the COVID-19 vaccines don’t work. 

THE QUESTION

Are fully vaccinated people getting COVID-19 anyway? Does this mean the vaccine isn’t working?

THE ANSWER

There are rare instances where people who have been fully vaccinated get COVID-19 afterwards.  Right now the number of cases make up less than 1% of all vaccinated people.

Experts say this is actually normal and reflects the fact that the vaccines are only about 95% effective. The rate at which vaccinated people have gotten COVID-19 is far less than the general population.

The vaccine is still working thus far.

WHY WE ARE VERIFYING

There have been hundreds of headlines from Oregon to San Diego talking about fully vaccinated people who still get COVID-19. That’s led to comments that question if the vaccine works.

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WHAT WE FOUND

The Oregon Public Health Division reported in a February 12 media briefing that four vaccinated people had contracted COVID-19.  

Dr. Daniel Salmon of Johns Hopkins Medicine told the VERIFY team in an interview that this is expected.

“This happens all the time with vaccines,” he said. “And especially happens when you have very high coverage...but, it can happen anytime.”

He said a vaccine with 95% effectiveness is really good, but that means 5% could still get the disease. That 5%, he said, can get more attention to make it seem like a bigger deal than it actually is.

And the CDC says both vaccines in use right now have that level of effectiveness. The CDC says the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective while the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective.

The Oregon Health Authority says they’ve fully vaccinated, meaning they’ve administered both doses to, more than 280,000 people. If just four fully vaccinated people have contracted COVID-19 in Oregon, that means less than 0.01% of vaccinated people have gotten the disease following their vaccination. That’s a pretty good number.

“No vaccine is 100% effective and no vaccine ever will be,” Dr. Salmon said. But, when you take the vaccine “you see that your risk was much much much, much much lower than if you weren't vaccinated” when it comes to getting the disease.

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