COLUMBUS, Ohio — At this point in the pandemic, you may know someone who experienced a so-called "breakthrough" case of COVID-19. Meaning, a person gets infected with the virus after they were fully vaccinated.
Three vaccinated Ohioans said testing positive brought up feelings of either worry, anger, or guilt.
Jennifer Hall, a teacher in Butler County, was eager to return work after a year at home while going through treatment for breast cancer.
"I'm finding it hard not to be angry,” Hall said.
Not long after getting back to work this school year she tested positive for COVID.
“I thought I was doing everything I possibly could to minimize the risks,” she explained. "I am just so disappointed that we haven't stepped up and eradicated this virus when we had the chance."
Jon Cameron, a father, had a breakthrough case during the delta surge. He said was worried about passing the virus on to his kids ages nine and eleven.
"I still can't really smell 100%,” he explained.
And Lisa Stone, a mother in Mansfield, said she got vaccinated as soon as she could because she has a compromised immune system.
"I was really upset that I somehow managed to catch it,” she said.
Three different people with what experts call a post-vaccination infection. While their experiences were different they all agree on this:
"It would have been a hell of a lot worse if I wasn't vaccinated,” Cameron said.
OhioHealth's Dr. Joe Gastaldo said there's truth to that.
“After you're vaccinated, you have two parts of your immune system that are stimulated: your antibody titers or your antibody levels, those naturally come down. But actually, what's more important are the induction of long-lasting memory cells,” he explained. “If somebody has a post-vaccination infection because their antibody levels are lower, guess what you got your memory cells that are going to ramp up, you're going to have your antibody titers come up a lot quicker, and you're going to really clear the virus a lot quicker. I have seen many patients and healthcare workers who've had post-vaccination infections, and many of those people were either asymptomatic or had mild cold or flu symptoms. And that's really a reflection of the vaccine working.”
According to the CDC the risk of hospitalization and death is much lower for fully vaccinated people.
Right now the CDC is leading multiple studies and monitoring breakthrough cases to identify any potential trends with age of people infected, whether they have underlying medical conditions, if a specific variant caused a breakthrough, and what brand of vaccine someone with a breakthrough case received.
"We really need to have good transmission studies with COVID-19 and those who are fully vaccinated,” Dr. Gastaldo said.
Jennifer Hall who experienced a breakthrough case said she will pay close attention to see what that research reveals.
"I had every symptom but not for very long,” Hall said. "I still have the cough."
While we all wait for that research to determine what the risk is for spreading the virus among vaccinated people -- experts still say getting vaccinated the best way to protect against infection and transmission.