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Here's How You Can Catch COVID Even If You're Vaccinated

Doctors warn to keep taking precautions even if you're vaccinated.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The COVID vaccine can drastically decrease your risk of getting the virus, but that doesn't mean you still can't get COVID. Breakthrough cases are happening and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing infection, serious illness, and death. Most people who get COVID-19 are unvaccinated. However, since vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection, some people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19. This is called a breakthrough infection. Even when people who are fully vaccinated develop symptoms of COVID-19, they tend to be less severe than in people who are unvaccinated." Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain why people who are vaccinated can get COVID and the most likely ways of getting the virus. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why the Vaccine Isn't 100% Effective

Doctor vaccinating female patient in clinic.

Dr. Ramzi Yacoub (PharmD), SingleCare Chief Pharmacy Officer says,"Vaccines are the best form of protection against severe cases of COVID-19, however, they're not 100% effective in preventing you from contracting the virus. One of the reasons is due to the number of new variants that are currently in circulation. The current COVID-19 vaccines were developed based on earlier variants and are less effective on the newer variants. As new variants emerge, vaccine manufacturers will continue to develop vaccines against these variants in order to keep up with what is in circulation. For the flu vaccine, every year a different vaccine is created based on the predicted strains that will be in circulation for that upcoming flu season. We may need to develop a similar process where the COVID-19 vaccine manufactures adapt the development of the vaccine based on the most common variant in circulation.  However, it will be more difficult for the COVID vaccine vs. the flu due to it not being seasonal at this point."


Only Being Partially Vaccinated Puts Your at Greater Risk for COVID

Patient refuses to take vaccination.

Erica Susky, an Infection Control Practitioner (ICP) in hospital epidemiology reveals, "The most preventable risk factor of acquiring severe COVID-19 is to be unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. For these people at risk, it is simply a matter of getting their full course of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible." 


Not Wearing a Mask

Young sick student teenager woman outside at bus stop is sneezing into the elbow by an allergy or cold. Scared woman in protective mask afraid cough woman outdoor

Susky says, "If one is not comfortable with the risks of acquiring COVID-19, either for the disruption it may cause to their lives or for their health risks, they should wear a mask indoors to offer some protection from coming in contact with others who may not be wearing a mask. For those who do not like wearing masks, they should certainly wear them to protect others if they feel a little under the weather as they may have COVID-19 or at the very least another respiratory virus. Ideally, everyone should wear masks indoors as it protects all those around them; the pandemic is not over yet."


Not Avoiding Crowds

people masks subway

Susky reminds us, "One should avoid crowds, SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person to person. The less people one comes into contact with means a smaller chance of being exposed to someone with COVID-19. Attending outdoor events carry less risk than indoor events. Greater air circulation and air exchanges dilutes the virus as it would not indoors. This will get much easier as we emerge into summer." 

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Not Covering the Mouth, Nose and Eyes While Indoors

face mask policy

Susky states, "If one does go indoors, they should wear a medical grade or a N95 mask. There are also masks combined with eye protection to cover all portals of entry of SARS-CoV-2 of one's face (eyes, nose, and mouth). Frequent hand washing helps to prevent acquiring a viral illness as contaminated hands can bring a virus to the portals of entry in one's face. Though it may not prevent someone from getting COVID-19, it will help immensely from getting severe COVID-19 is to get one's full course of COVID-19 vaccine, which is three doses for most people now."

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Doctor and nurse are moving injured patient from an accident on a gurney to the emergency operating room.

Dr. Kunal Gurav, M.D., FACC, MBA, ChenMed Medical Director of Cardiology and Regional Chief Clinical Officer for Dedicated Senior Medical Centers in Missouri and Tennessee explains, "One of the most dangerous locations for coronavirus infections is hospitals, which are so important for acute medical care and so inappropriate for routine medical care that is much better handled by primary care physicians – especially those using a combination of telemedicine and in-person appointments to rigorously manage virus exposure during high-infection periods for COVID-19. Everyone should make it a priority to have a strong relationship with easy access to a primary care provider."

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How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather