12 'fully vaccinated' people in Leon County still got COVID-19, Florida records show

But a Florida epidemiologist says he's "not worried."

Christopher Cann
Tallahassee Democrat

A dozen people in Leon County have tested positive for the coronavirus even after becoming fully vaccinated, state records show. 

But experts say such “breakthrough cases” are an expected result of vaccines that aren't 100% effective. Breakthrough cases are defined as infections occurring 14 days after one's last vaccine shot or after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

There have been 12 reported breakthrough coronavirus cases in Leon County, according to Pam Saulsby, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health-Leon County. 

Vaccine no-go:Florida considered, then rejected, Dollar General for COVID vaccine distribution

At FAMU:With eligibility open, students get vaccinated at Al Lawson Center

Three COVID-19 vaccines:Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson. What's the difference, anyway?

As of Sunday, about 58,000 Leon County residents were fully vaccinated, suggesting only .02% so far have become infected after their final dose. 

What is a COVID vaccine breakthrough case?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking breakthrough cases in each state. In Florida, there is no public statewide total of breakthrough cases.

Nearby big bend counties like Madison and Jefferson Counties have no reported breakthrough coronavirus cases, according to their respective public information officers. 

Stephen Kimmel, chair of the department of epidemiology at the University of Florida, says he's “not worried" about breakthrough cases. That's because no vaccine is 100% effective, and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective at preventing infection after the second dose.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine's immunity rate was 72% in clinical trials, according to the CDC. 

While people still can get infected after full vaccination, the likelihood of contracting the  coronavirus is much less likely, especially two weeks after the last shot, Kimmel added.

A vaccine's full protection is not present until after a second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A blue bandage is placed on Jomarie Santiago's arm after she received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Al Lawson Center Monday, April 5, 2021.

Jill Roberts, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, said people should still try to minimize exposure by continuing to follow CDC guidelines. 

“We shouldn't be worried that there were a couple of cases — that’s expected,” she said. “However, we should do everything we can to prevent there from being any cases.”

What you could do right after you are vaccinated

The CDC advises people who are vaccinated to continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks in crowded places, especially if there is poor ventilation.

Statewide, there are counties with much higher numbers of breakthrough cases. But when accounting for population, there are no major outliers.

Palm Beach County, which is triple the size of Leon County in population, recorded 136 breakthrough cases as of April 1, according to The Palm Beach Post. 

"I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine" stickers fill a table where RN's were vaccinating people at the New St. John Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday morning April 7, 2021 in Ocala, FL.

In central Florida, Sumter County has six breakthrough cases and Lake County has 26, according to News 6 in Orlando. A total of 32 cases were reported by the Volusia County Department of Health. 

Breakthrough cases are not limited to the Sunshine State. According to news reports:

  • Georgia had a statewide count of 327 suspected breakthrough cases as of April 6. 
  • Michigan had only 246 statewide cases of breakthrough infections as of Wednesday. 
  • And Utah recently recorded 97 cases. 

In Leon County there have been nearly 30,000 coronavirus cases, according to the state's COVID tracking dashboard.

Contact Christopher Cann at ccann@tallahassee.com and follow @chrstophercann on Twitter.

Never miss a story: Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.