CHARLOTTE, N.C. — According to health experts, all three COVID-19 vaccines on the U.S. market have high efficacy rates, but no vaccine is a 100% guarantee. When someone gets sick despite being vaccinated against an illness, they are considered a breakthrough case.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services states that a breakthrough infection meets the following criteria:
- Positive COVID-19 test at least 14 days past completion of vaccination (1 dose for Janssen; 2 doses for Moderna and Pfizer)
- No previous positive test in 45 days beforehand
Are there any reports of people getting COVID-19 after being vaccinated?
There have been reports in North Carolina, and other states, of breakthrough COVID-19 infections, but these reports are extremely rare compared to the vaccination numbers. However, more formal research is needed and is currently underway to determine the true prevalence.
According to a CDC database where clinicians and others can report adverse events and reactions to a vaccine, there have been 25 reports made to the system of people in North Carolina who got COVID-19 after getting a COVID-19 shot.
However, only three of those reports show people who got sick after meeting the definition of being fully vaccinated.
While the CDC states its report database has limitations, the system "can quickly provide an early warning of a safety problem with a vaccine."
That said, the three reports of potential breakthrough infections stand on a backdrop of more than 1.5 million completed vaccine series in North Carolina.
Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease specialist with Novant Health, states while anecdotal stories of COVID-19 breakthroughs will certainly garner attention, they are relatively rare.
"The expectation can't be with any vaccine that there's not a single case that arises in someone who got the vaccine," Priest said. "There's a unique interaction with the individual's immune system and how well they respond to it – how well they're making antibodies, how well their T cells respond."
But even with breakthrough cases, Priest said the vaccine could still be working, by making symptoms milder and, more importantly, cutting down chances of hospitalization and death.
Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.