RALEIGH (WTVD) -- There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 becoming infected with the virus -- something known as a breakthrough case -- but the data show these people fare far better than those who are unvaccinated.
According to the latest CDC data, as of July 26, more than 163 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated against COVID-19; of those, 6,587 people experienced a breakthrough case in which they ended up being hospitalized or died.
Data shows just .004 percent of breakthrough case patients ended up in the hospital and .001 percent died.
The CDC reported that most of those breakthrough case hospitalizations, 74 percent, were among adults 65 and older.
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"It is extremely rare to find somebody in the ICU who's been fully vaccinated," said Dr. David Wohl, Prof. of Medicine in UNC's Div. of Infectious Diseases. "And the exceptions really have been people who probably didn't respond to the vaccine because they've got a host of immunocompromising conditions and are also usually very old."
Dr. Wohl said it's important when people see headlines about breakthrough cases, they understand the broad spectrum of what COVID-19 infection looks like.
"Getting the infection in your nose and getting the sniffles is a lot different than getting admitted to the hospital," he said. "Who we're seeing in the ICU are younger people who are not vaccinated. Let's be really clear -- 18-year-old people, people in their 20s and 30s, not vaccinated, who are now hooked up to machines."
On July 30 in North Carolina, 20 patients age 30 to 39 were admitted in hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19. That number was at 10 for the 20 to 29 age group.
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Wohl said COVID vaccines are still the best line of defense against the virus and its variants as they are designed to give your immune system a jump start, to quickly recognize the virus and fight it should you become infected.
"If anyone is on the fence about taking the vaccine because of breakthrough cases, you're not understanding the data," he said. "The data show us very clearly, if you're vaccinated it's preventing you from getting sick and dying."
Wohl warned that now is the time to expand masking as the highly contagious delta variant is spreading even among the fully vaccinated.
"We really have the tools to not have a long, dark winter," Wohl said. "And that is if we can really vaccine up, get more people vaccinated and if we can wear masks so we can prevent the ping ponging...the spread of delta from person to person."
For anyone, fully vaccinated or not, who is showing symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19, Wohl is urging you to seek the timely treatment of monoclonal antibodies to keep you out of the hospital.
"We're talking about monoclonal antibody therapy," Wohl said. "And they are available through EUA (Emergency Use Authorization). The same mechanism that gets us these vaccines has gotten us these monoclonal antibodies and they keep people out of the hospital and probably save lives."
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Wohl said health systems, including UNC Health, have infusion centers throughout the state for people seeking monoclonal antibody therapy.
Still, he stressed the importance of getting vaccinated as your best option in fighting a virus that's killed more than 600,000 people in the U.S.
"It just gives you a jump start," Wohl said. "Why not get your immune system ready to go to attack this invader rather than let it run ragged through your system for days on end?"