6 vaccinated people who got COVID-19 reveal where they were infected: weddings, summer camps, and a Vegas trip
A woman receives a COVID-19 swab test at the Utah County Health Department in Salt Lake City on November 20, 2020. George Frey / Getty Images
Breakthrough cases are becoming more common as the Delta variant spreads across the United States.
Insider spoke to six people who got COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.
Most people said they got infected at a large event, but one woman fell sick after visiting family.
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It felt like the reward for a year of caution: after the vaccination, Ryan Forrest was allowed to travel to his friends' wedding. Allyson Borunda celebrated her 26th birthday with a party in Las Vegas. Sam Reider eventually met with other musicians to play and teach in a camp.
But all three tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
These "breakthrough infections" are becoming more common as the Delta variant becomes widespread in the United States.
Delta is more transmissible than other tribes. So the same circumstances that have fueled transmission since the pandemic began, still carry some risk for people who have been vaccinated, even though their vaccinations protect them from serious illness, hospitalization, or death.
Insider spoke to six people with breakthrough cases about the circumstances under which they fell ill. Most said they got infected at a large gathering, but one got the virus during a seemingly low-risk visit with two vaccinated family members.
An indoor wedding
A couple - not the people mentioned in this story - pose for wedding photos in Sydney, Australia on June 26, 2021. Steven Saphore / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Forrest, a 30-year-old who lives in Midland Park, New Jersey, got admitted by Johnson & Johnson in late March and then attended a July 1 wedding with about 150 guests.
"Unfortunately it was a smaller venue," he told Insider. "It happened to be raining, so every single person was inside."
He woke up on July 5th feeling "a little foggy," he said. That night Forrest developed a fever and woke up drenched in sweat. The next day, his rapid COVID-19 test came back positive, around the same time that body aches and a runny nose set in.
Several other people at the wedding - most of whom were vaccinated - also tested positive, he said.
About children who went to summer camp
Hilary Young (right) with her two daughters. Courtesy Hilary Young
Hilary Young, a Philadelphia-based branding consultant, traced her groundbreaking case back to her children's summer camp. Young's daughters, ages 3 and 6, attended camp before the July 4th weekend. Shortly after, Young learned that a counselor had tested positive for COVID-19.
Young's daughters showed no symptoms, so they decided to join an extended family for a beach vacation. But on the trip, her 6-year-old began to feel tired, then developed a mild fever, headache, runny nose and some nausea. Some older adults in the beach house also felt uncomfortable.
"There were six vaccinated adults in the house," Young told Insider. "Four of us felt symptoms."
Both Young and her 6-year-old tested positive for COVID-19. Young's symptoms began with a sore throat, then "complete congestion" and some dizziness. She also lost her sense of taste and smell.
"I think our children are harassing us with Trojans," said Young. "You are the way in."
Music lessons in a camp
Music student Malik Vollmer plays his harp during a lesson in Lower Saxony on November 3, 2020. Hauke-Christian Dittrich / Getty Images
Reider, a 32-year-old musician who lives in San Francisco, also fell ill from a camp. He taught music at a camp for a few hours outside of town - his first foray into normal life since the pandemic began.
"It was that feeling of celebration, like we were back together," Reider said. "There was a lot of music and singing in the immediate vicinity."
Of the around 50 people in the camp, most of them are older children who are vaccinated. A handful of unvaccinated children under the age of 12 wore masks, but one of them ultimately tested positive for COVID-19. Reider fell ill shortly afterwards. He had received Pfizer's injection in mid-April.
"As far as I know, there was only the infected child who was unvaccinated and me as the only breakthrough case," he said.
Reider's initial symptoms - exhaustion and a headache - were "similar to feeling super-jet-lagged after an international flight," he said. Soon after, he felt constipated and short of breath, and these symptoms persisted for about two weeks after his test positive.
"What the Delta variant will do is find any void in our defenses," Hilary Babcock, medical director of infection prevention at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, told Insider. "So people who were pretty cautious for the most part, but still go to a restaurant with their other vaccinated friends or take off their mask at the gym when they work out and other people work out around them - Delta won't let that happen."
A birthday weekend in Las Vegas
Allyson Borunda (top, second from right) and her friends on her 26th birthday in Las Vegas. Ally Borunda
Allyson Borunda fell ill while celebrating her 26th birthday with a dozen friends in Las Vegas earlier this month. She got admission from Johnson & Johnson in April. Three of her friends, who were also fully vaccinated, also tested positive for COVID-19 after the trip. None of the infected shared a room.
"We've been to the clubs and pool parties all weekend so it's really hard to pinpoint the exact time of exposure," Borunda told Insider. The venues were crowded, she added, because of an Ultimate Fighting Championship this weekend.
Borunda noticed she had a cough the day after she drove home and tested positive for COVID-19 two days later. At about the same time, she developed a fever, chills, headache and body aches. After that, she lost her sense of taste and smell, which is now slowly returning.
The trip was fun, said Borunda, "but now I'm paying for it."
A small family reunion
A meal in Lower Saxony on May 13, 2021. Eman Helal / Getty Images
Kristi White, who lives in Minneapolis, went on a family visit earlier this month with her partner and two elementary school children. Both White and her partner are fully vaccinated with Pfizer's vaccine, but their children are too young to be vaccinated.
The family spent 24 hours with two vaccinated relatives - indoors, without masks.
"We thought if we were spending time with two other fully vaccinated adults and not going anywhere else during our trip, it seemed like a fairly low-risk activity," White told Insider.
But everyone in the house eventually tested positive for COVID-19. White's children recovered from mild symptoms after a week. Both she and her partner still have persistent coughing, tiredness, and shortness of breath.
"I can't imagine how much worse this would have been if my partner or I had been hospitalized and one of us at home very sick of COVID tried to raise two children in quarantine," she said.
Working in a hospital
Anna Kern, a 33-year-old nurse from Ferndale, Michigan, fell ill from an unvaccinated colleague. She tested positive for COVID-19 in April, about three months after receiving her second dose of Pfizer. Her colleague was not busy wearing a mask, she said.
"She didn't boldly say, 'No, I won't wear my mask.' She loved taking it off and putting it back up and taking it off and putting it back up, "Kern told Insider.
Kern said she always wears her own mask at work, "except maybe five minutes in which I take it off for a really quick bite to eat."
Since her diagnosis, Kern has been struggling with extreme fatigue. In late May, a doctor diagnosed her with long-term COVID - a post-viral disease characterized by symptoms that last for at least three weeks.
Like all breakthrough cases, her illness underscores the importance of using caution until more people are vaccinated.
"Masking and distancing still works for Delta," Babcock said. "You just have to be more meticulous."
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