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Rare Breakthrough COVID Cases Show Vaccines' Effectiveness At Preventing Severe Illness

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A West Hollywood man spoke out Tuesday after contracting COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated.

"I only stopped wearing a mask indoors in the gym when they told us it was safe to," Martijn Hostetler said.

Hostetler said he was frustrated that he contracted the virus despite following all of the county's safety precautions. Hostetler said both he and his trainer, who is also fully vaccinated, were both infected.

"There are people working out mask free in gyms, and you have to trust people about their vaccination status," he said. "And I guess you can't trust people."

But, despite having COVID-19, Hostetler said he has had no symptoms. However, he believes that if he were not vaccinated, he might have fallen very ill.

Health experts said that Hostetler's case was an example of the vaccines' effectiveness. And, to date, health officials said there has not been a single COVID-19 hospital admission to county hospitals of a person who was fully vaccinated with either the Johnson and Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

"Every single patient that we've admitted for COVID had been not yet fully vaccinated, and that's hard for healthcare workers to see," Dr. Christina Ghaly, L.A. County Department of Public Health director, said. "They've spent hours, effort, energy trying to care for patients."

And while the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infection, doctors said they still have a dramatic effect on reducing the severity of the virus in rare breakthrough cases. And, with cases on the rise as the Delta variant spreads, health experts said it was vital to continue increasing vaccination rates.

"Delta is very dangerous, and it can reach down into people who are in their 30's — even sometimes their 20's — with severe disease," Dr. Michael Hirt, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine, said. "So this is an important point that when you're dealing with this type of variant that has the ability to evade your immune system."

Hirt said, ultimately, some protection is better than none. And Hostetler agreed, saying that even though he had a breakthrough case, people should not take that as a reason to not get vaccinated.

"I feel relieved that I got it," he said. "And I feel relieved that probably I'm gonna be OK."

As cases continue to rise, health experts are encouraging everyone not yet vaccinated to get the shot, especially those who are especially vulnerable to serious infection like the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

On Tuesday, L.A. County reported 1,103 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 1,259,772 cases and 24,554 deaths.

In the last month, the county's five-day average caseload has increased more than 500% from 201 on June 13 to 1,095 Tuesday. The test positivity rate has increased nearly 700% in that same time period, going from 0.5% last month to 3.4% Tuesday.


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