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142 Houstonians tested positive for COVID-19 after getting vaccine

Doctors say breakthrough infections - also called vaccines failures - happen with all vaccines because they aren't 100% effective.

HOUSTON — The Houston Health Department says dozens of people have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

That means they were infected with the virus more than two weeks after getting either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Doctors refer to those cases as breakthrough infections or vaccine failures. 

Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department says breakthrough infections happen with all vaccines but there's no cause for alarm.

“It’s not a surprise at all that we would see a small number of people test positive after being vaccinated. Our back of the napkin math would have been a little higher than this,” said Dr. Persse.

He explains that no vaccine is 100% effective. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are reportedly around 95% effective.

In Houston, the 142 breakthrough infections are out of more than 577,000 people who are fully vaccinated. The Houston Health Department says that’s approximately 0.02%. None of them needed to be hospitalized.

Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed breakthrough infections during a White House COVID-19 Response Team press briefing Monday.  

He says immunized people can still get infected for a number of reasons -- like their immunity faded over time or they’re exposed to a variant. 

Dr. Fauci says the vaccines are still highly effective in preventing serious infections.

“In the real world, no vaccine is 100% efficacious, which means you’ll always see breakthrough infections regardless of the efficacy of the vaccine,” said Dr. Fauci. “The J&J, for example, efficacy was down to 64%. There were essentially no deaths or hospitalizations in the people vaccinated.”

Dr. Persse says that means the vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to, but getting one doesn’t mean you can let your guard down.

“People need to think about beyond just whether I’m vaccinated. There’s more to it than that. What about the people around you?” he said.

Dr. Persse says these cases are a good example of why health officials are still encouraging masks and avoiding large crowds even though more and more people are getting their vaccines.