MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At least 5,559 people who are fully vaccinated contracted COVID-19, new data from the Minnesota Department of Health show—a tiny fraction of more than 3 million people who are inoculated.

The state will begin reporting breakthrough cases weekly as the Delta variant of the virus spreads rapidly throughout the state and country.

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The data—which reflects numbers through July 11 because of delays associated with identifying such cases—show the breakthrough infections represent just 0.19% of the vaccinated population in Minnesota. The state reached 70% of residents 16 and older with their shots Thursday.

At least 514 people were hospitalized and 57 died after being vaccinated, the state reports.

Minnesota infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the vaccines are safe and still the “best tool in our toolbox” to combat the pandemic—and that breakthrough cases don’t undermine their value to public health because they strongly protect people from severe illness and death.

“If you’re not vaccinated—you’re not protected at all,” she said.

I report this story as someone who is among the statistics. A week and a half ago I started having a stuffy nose and was sneezing frequently. At first, contracting COVID wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind—I was fully vaccinated since April.

Then I tested positive.

I shared my story publicly on Twitter hoping that someone who is unvaccinated might reconsider. I only had mild illness that lasted a few days and now I feel great.

Experts like Ehresmann say that’s the whole point of getting vaccinated.

“You weren’t hospitalized and you’re around to tell about it. That’s the thing we want to avoid—the severe consequences of COVID,” she said. “The vaccinations will continue to help us do that.”

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Cases and hospitalizations in Minnesota are rising, mirroring national trends due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the disease.

Dr. Susan Kline, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, said hospitalizations at M Health Fairview have quadrupled since the end of June with the majority of admissions among the unvaccinated, mirroring national trends.

“It’s not perfect but it’s still very good and it’s our best protection,” she said of the vaccine.

Ehresmann said due to the lag in the state’s data, there will likely be more breakthrough cases in the coming weeks because of the infectious strain circulating.

But as cases rise in Minnesota, the vaccinated who test positive aren’t driving the spread, she said.

“Really the vaccine breakthrough is collateral damage in the Delta war if you will,” she said. “Delta is what’s driving transmission in our unvaccinated population.”

I was symptomatic when I tested positive, which was the first test I’d gotten in weeks because I was vaccinated. Ehresmann said it’s critical to seek testing if you are feeling ill, regardless of vaccination status.

She stressed that if you test positive and you are vaccinated, it’s still important to follow health guidance and isolate from others.

“The hope is that in the majority of cases, it won’t be COVID,” Ehresmann said. “But it is important given what we now know about Delta—that if they have symptoms, they take them seriously.”

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Ehresmann said there is an uptick in vaccinations in the state. Minnesota recently announced a $100 gift card incentive to get more people interested in getting a shot.

Caroline Cummings