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Louisville doctor explains why people should get vaccinated despite breakthrough cases

Dr. Jon Klein with UofL's School of Medicine compared vaccines to carrying an umbrella during a rainstorm.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Do you carry an umbrella if you think it's going to rain? That's the analogy Dr. Jon Klein with the University of Louisville School of Medicine used to explain the importance of getting vaccinated despite breakthrough cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define a breakthrough case as detection of COVID-19 in a person who has completed all of the recommended vaccine doses more than 14 days before infection.

While more breakthrough cases are being reported across the country, Klein said breakthrough cases make up less than 1.5% of current cases. A majority of vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 exhibit mild symptoms, while few face serious symptoms.

As of Aug. 2, more than 164 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. In that time, the CDC has received reports of 7,525 patients with breakthrough infection who were hospitalized or died.

"When it rains, we all take out our umbrellas," Klein said. "Vaccines are like umbrellas. If it’s raining and it’s a mild or moderate amount of rain, the umbrella is going to keep you dry. But if you were to take an umbrella out in the middle of a hurricane, you’re going to get wet because it’s just not a perfect way to protect us.

"In some parts of this country, people are in the middle of a virus hurricane," Klein said. "It’s not surprising that vaccines are not protecting us fully. They are still remarkably protective against serious illness and death. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but it’s going to be rare, and the vaccines are absolutely essential if we want to get our lives back."

Klein continued the analogy, saying wearing a mask on top of getting vaccinated is like wearing a raincoat while holding an umbrella: it's an extra level of protection to "keep us safe."

There is also a misconception that people previously infected with COVID-19 have the same amount of immunity as those vaccinated. Klein said data indicates some measure of immunity is given by previous infection, but adding the vaccine make people even more protected.

"Just surviving infection does not give you a level of immunity that’s fully protective," Klein said. "The other thing to remember is that people who were sick in May, June all the way through November of 2020 were exposed to a virus that was very different than the delta virus we’re dealing with now. Their immunity is not as good as we would hope. They absolutely need to go get their vaccine."

The majority of counties in Kentucky and Indiana are reporting substantial community spread of COVID-19. Officials have noted an increase in hospitalizations both in adults and children.

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