Arizona Rep. Alma Hernández is one of nearly 950 fully immunized Arizona residents who became sick with COVID-19 after their vaccinations, but she doesn’t want people to think that means vaccines don’t work.
“As a public-health professional, I’m in no way advocating in any way, shape or form, for people not to get vaccinated,” the Tucson Democrat said during a telephone call on Thursday. Hernández, 28, was vaccinated in February and got sick this week.
So far in Arizona, data dating back to January shows four out of every 10,000 fully vaccinated people have later been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Breakthrough cases are extraordinarily rare amid the more than 2 million Arizonans who have been fully vaccinated, but they will happen because no vaccine is 100% effective,” said Steve Elliott, spokesman for the state’s Department of Health Services. “That’s why we need enough Arizonans to get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.”
Hernández, who has a master’s degree in public health, said she started to feel sick Wednesday, April 28, and got tested immediately. Her symptoms so far include extreme fatigue, a loss of taste and smell, a fever that went away after a few hours and a bad headache.
Hernández said she “shudders” to think of how she might be feeling if she hadn’t been immunized.
“If I hadn’t been vaccinated, I might be in the hospital right now,” Hernández said. “Vaccines do work and save lives, and if you are able to get the vaccine, you absolutely should.”
On Friday, the state’s health department reported 19 new deaths while no deaths have been reported from breakthrough cases.
“This is just to remind you a vaccination does not mean immunity to contracting COVID,” Hernández wrote Wednesday on Twitter in response to people using her situation to promote skipping the vaccine. She is encouraging people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. “Hoping my symptoms don’t worsen; however, I’m very fortunate to be vaccinated.”
When it comes to getting this virus under control, vaccines are the effective, critical tool, said Aaron Pacheco, communications director for the Pima County Health Department.
“We have to remember that no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness,” Pacheco wrote in an email about cases like Hernandez’s. “There is still a chance that after vaccination, a situation like this can happen.”
Vaccines protect communities in two ways — reducing the chances a person will get the virus and spread it, and decreasing the amount of virus there is in circulation.
Variants are also a possible culprit in breakthrough cases.