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New MDH numbers show breakthrough COVID-19 cases are rare

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, about 0.1% of fully vaccinated Minnesotans have later tested positive for COVID-19.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — On Sunday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 805 new COVID cases and 10 additional deaths. It marks the second day in a row with fewer than 1,000 newly reported cases. Sixty-one percent of Minnesotans who are 16 years of age or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

Since COVID-19 vaccinations began, some people who are fully vaccinated have later tested positive for COVID-19. A breakthrough case is considered someone who tests positive for COVID-19 more than two weeks after their final vaccine dose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a small percentage of breakthrough cases is expected. 

According to MDH, as of May 12 there have been 1,942 reported breakthrough cases (1,691 confirmed and 251 probable). That's compared to 1,886,753 people who were fully vaccinated as of April 18. Breakthrough numbers end up being about 0.1% of total cases this year.

RELATED: Live updates: New COVID-19 cases remain below 1,000 in Minnesota for second day in row

"What we are seeing is that the people who are sick with COVID are the ones who have not been vaccinated. When I do see someone who tests positive for COVID after vaccination, it's often they have no symptoms or very minimal symptoms," explained Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn, a primary care doctor with Hennepin Healthcare.

RELATED: Vaccinated Minnesota nurse stuck in Mexico after testing positive for COVID

While no vaccine is 100% effect, Dr. Lichtsinn said the ones we have for COVID-19 are close. In clinical trials, Moderna and Pfizer were about 95% effective. 

MDH said of the state's reported breakthrough cases, 175 had to be hospitalized. The average age was 70 years old. 

There have been 21 deaths among breakthrough cases since May 12 — about 1% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota this year. The average age for those 21 deaths was 75 years old. 

RELATED: 30% of COVID 'breakthrough' patients show no symptoms, CDC says

"What I recommend to people is if you personally have a higher risk of severe illness if you do get sick with COVID, it's better to err on the side of caution and wear a mask if you're among other people who may not be vaccinated even if you are yourself and also for people who have higher risk jobs," Dr. Lichtsinn said. "I think of myself as a physician and I would just hate to be in a position where I had an asymptomatic infection or a minimally symptomatic infection and accidentally spread it to somebody else."

For those still hesitant to get the vaccine, Dr. Lichtsinn recommends they consult with their doctor. 

"The possibility of a breakthrough infection with this vaccine is certainly not a reason to avoid the vaccine," Dr. Lichtsinn said. "It is a known issue with any vaccination program and getting the vaccine is still the best thing you can do to protect yourself against COVID."

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