Catt Sadler says she has COVID after getting vaccinated. Experts explain 'rare' breakthrough infections


Catt Sadler shared surprising news with fans on Tuesday: She has a breakthrough COVID-19 infection — and she's stressing the importance of getting vaccinated against the virus.

The entertainment reporter, who said she's fully vaccinated, revealed her diagnosis on Instagram Tuesday alongside a photo of herself in bed. "I’m fully vaccinated and I have Covid," she wrote in the caption. "I’m telling you this so that you understand that the pandemic is very much NOT over." Sadler also said that she has the Delta variant, which is responsible for outbreaks across the country. "Delta is relentless and highly contagious and grabbed ahold of me even after getting vaccinated," she said.

Catt Sadler says she has contracted COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.
Catt Sadler says she has COVID-19 after getting vaccinated. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)

Sadler said she was "caring for someone who contracted COVID," although they thought it was "just the flu" at the time. "I did come into close contact with the virus, but I wore a mask, and again I'm fully vaccinated," she said. "I assumed I would be fine. Well I'm not. I'm one of many breakthrough cases that we are seeing more of each and every day."

Sadler said that her symptoms are "not mild," listing off two days of fever, a "throbbing" head, "extreme congestion," "serious fatigue" and "even some weird puss coming out of my eye" as examples.

"If you are not vaccinated and not wearing a mask, I assure you you don't want to feel like this and not only are you bound to get sick eventually, you'll be spreading it to others," she wrote. "As in my case — I got this from someone who wasn't vaccinated :/."

Sadler then offered up this advice: "If you are vaccinated, don't let your guard down. If you're in crowds or indoors in public, I highly recommend taking the extra precaution of wearing a mask." She stressed that the COVID-19 vaccine "isn't [fool]-proof," adding, "vaccines lessen the likelihood of hospitalization and death, but you can still catch this thing. So continue to protect yourselves."

As of May 1, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention transitioned from monitoring all reported COVID-19 cases to focus on those where people were hospitalized or died from breakthrough cases.

According to CDC data, 4,909 people in the United States have been hospitalized with breakthrough cases of COVID-19 and 988 have died as of July 6.

As of Tuesday, nearly 160 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Delta variant, which is listed as a "variant of concern" by the CDC, now makes up more than 31 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., per CDC data.

Sadler's news comes just days after reports of a series of breakthrough COVID-19 infections in the Massachusetts resort town of Provincetown. "Overwhelmingly, the affected individuals have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19," reads a statement from the Barnstable County Department of Health issued on Tuesday. "The moderate intensity of symptoms indicates that the vaccines are working as predicted."

Other reports of breakthrough cases have popped up across the country, including in a fully vaccinated California man who contracted the virus during a trip to Las Vegas. Doctors in Kansas also report a slight uptick in breakthrough COVID-19 cases, particularly in people with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues. "It's a small number of patients," University of Kansas Health System medical director Steve Stites told Kansas City, Mo., news station KMBC-TV.

"It's misleading to just talk about the number of breakthrough infections rather than the percentage — which is incredibly low," one infectious disease expert, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. "No vaccine is 100 percent protective, and it is extremely unlikely, as evidenced by the percentage, that a breakthrough infection occurs."

Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, agrees. "Breakthrough infections are rare, and if it does happen, there is almost no risk of death if a person is vaccinated."

According to clinical trial data, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1 percent effective and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66 percent effective (but 100 percent effective against hospitalizations and deaths).

But people also have individual responses to a vaccine, a pulmonary critical care expert, Dr. Reynold Panettieri, director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Science at Rutgers University, tells Yahoo Life. "Not all individuals get the same immune response to a vaccine, especially the elderly and those with immunosuppression," he says.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agrees. "People who are frail and immunocompromised won’t get the benefits of 95 percent protection, because their immune systems may not respond as well," he says. "Instead, they may get 80 percent protection."

There’s also the possibility that a COVID-19 variant could "evade protection of the vaccine, in part," Schaffner says. It's unclear at this point whether the Delta variant is more likely to infect fully vaccinated people than other variants, but Adalja points out that Delta is becoming the "dominant version" of the virus in the U.S. "So, if someone is to be infected whether it is a breakthrough or an ordinary infection, it’s likely to be with a Delta variant," he says.

Doctors stress that while breakthrough infections can happen, they're not common and usually not serious. "Most breakthrough infections, when they do occur, are mild," Adalja says.

Over time and as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, it's expected that these breakthrough cases will become even less common, Schaffner says. "The virus will have more difficulty finding new people to infect as more people become protected from the vaccine," he says. "That’s the whole concept of herd immunity."

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