NORTHBROOK, Ill. – Of the more than 98 million people fully vaccinated in the US, a tiny portion are developing rare COVID-19 breakthrough cases.

The unexpected phenomenon, which sees fully vaccinated patients contract the coronavirus, has impacted dozens of people in Illinois. The CDC has found 40% of breakthrough cases are those 60 or older and 65% are women. Doctors are studying among the group how many people have compromised immunity.

Ariel Silver, of Northbrook, says she was diagnosed with COVID-19 after becoming vaccinated in January.

“I got the first dose, it was the Pfizer shot and I got my second dose on Jan. 14,” she told WGN News.

Silver, who works in the medical field, says she was thrilled to be vaccinated. Six weeks after her second dose, however, both her daughters tested positive for coronavirus. Silver also contracted the illness, much to her surprise.

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“For two days, I was very ill. I wasn’t able to work. I had to cancel days,” she said. “I was very congested. I was exhausted. I had a sore throat. I was very sick.”

Silva is one of the dozens of breakthrough COVID-19 cases in Illinois. Of those cases, 97 people have been hospitalized, and 32 have died, accounting for only half a percent of all COVID deaths in Illinois. Nationally, there have been more than seven thousand cases, nearly 500 hospitalizations, and 88 deaths. 

“The small numbers we’re seeing, it’s hard to make true conclusions from those small numbers, not just Illinois but nationwide, worldwide to see how many breakthroughs are there,” said Dr. Michael  Angarone, Northwestern Memorial Hospital Associate Professor of Internal Medicine. “How many are due to variants, how many are people who are immune-suppressed? So we can really get a handle of what’s going on.”

Silva said the news is heartbreaking to hear.

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“While I’m so thankful for the vaccine, we have three options and it’s not 100%,” Silva said.

Doctors are still studying these breakthrough cases, which they say are to be expected. Officials are studying whether new variants are to be blamed.

Health experts encourage everyone to get vaccinated, but stress while they are effective, none prevent illness 100% of the time. 

“We still are at potential risk of getting the infection,” Dr. Angarone said. “If we do get infected, it may be mild. There is a small chance we might get severely sick from it.”

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