I’m vaccinated, but still got COVID-19. Am I contagious?

The vaccines are safe and effective, but some people will still get COVID-19. 

Getting sick with COVID-19 after getting vaccinated is known as a “breakthrough case”. While these breakthrough cases are uncommon, they might feel common if there is high transmission in your area. Even if only 1 out of 100 vaccinated people exposed to the virus become sick, with over 160 million people vaccinated, that’s still a lot of people who might experience a breakthrough case. But the good news is that the vaccines remain 93-100% effective at preventing hospitalization or death. That means many, many fewer people will get sick, hospitalized, or die if more of us get vaccinated. 

Unfortunately, the new delta variant is more contagious. This has led to a small increase in breakthrough cases. So it’s important to take precautions, even if you are vaccinated. 

I’m vaccinated and still got sick. Am I contagious?

Yes! Two new studies suggest that vaccinated and unvaccinated people might have the same viral load early in infection. The viral load is directly correlated with how contagious you are; the more virus in your nose, the more likely you are to spread COVID. The good news is that one study suggests that the viral load decreases more quickly in vaccinated people. In other words, vaccinated people might be contagious for a shorter period of time. 

The viral load with the delta virus is 1,000 times higher than the original virus, so it is way more contagious! Whether you are infected with the delta variant or not, it is best to assume you are contagious.

Take the same precautions if you get sick whether you are vaccinated or not!

If you do get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, you should take the same precautions as anyone else. Stay quarantined for 14 days or until you test negative. Wear a mask if you must be around others, and wash your hands!

Last update: August 6, 2021, 2:00pm ET

Science review: ERS, JAB