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'Breakthrough' COVID-19 Cases In Kentucky Adding To Knowledge About Virus, Vaccines

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AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
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A major COVID-19 outbreak in a Kentucky nursing home included 22 cases in people who had already been vaccinated, but health experts say the data still demonstrate the efficacy of the vaccines.

The positives in previously vaccinated residents and staff are what are commonly known as "breakthrough" cases, incidents where the virus or a variant is able to get through the body's defenses despite the vaccination.

But health officials say there's room for reassurance in the nursing home numbers. Vaccinated staff and residents were far less likely to be symptomatic or require hospitalization.

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack has said the breakthrough cases aren't unexpected.

"The vaccines can be incredible highly effective and you still are going to have some people who don't mount as robust an immune response and still get infected," he told a press briefing last week. "So this is going to happen. This is not a surprise that it happens and it's quite predictable."

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine also bears out that assessment, finding two coronavirus positives out of more than 400 fully vaccinated participants. Both cases were mild and patients recovered in short order.