Why are vaccinated Olympic athletes testing positive for COVID-19?


TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 19: Foreign journalists carry broadcast equipment past Olympic Rings as they walk to the media centre at Tokyo Olympics athletes village on July 19, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Two South African football players have become the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19. Other cases connected to the Games were also recently confirmed including eight Team GB members who have had to enter isolation after contact with a coronavirus case on their flight to Tokyo. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games approaches, athletes who say they’re fully vaccinated are testing positive for COVID-19. How is this possible?

OhioHealth infectious disease expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo said being in Tokyo for the Olympics is a high-risk situation, adding vaccination numbers play a key role in preventing positive tests anywhere for people who have received the shot.

It’s all about environments, which Gastaldo said could be the tipping point.

“In the setting of being around a lot of COVID activity, especially with more people not being vaccinated and the delta variant, it’s riskier for people who are fully vaccinated to actually get infected, whether it be asymptomatic infection or infection that results in mild symptoms,” he said.

That is what is happening in Tokyo with Olympic athletes testing positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated.

Gastaldo said people have to remember the vaccine is a layer of protection and those who are vaccinated can still get sick with mild symptoms. They may not be contagious, however.

“Recent studies have supported that those who are fully vaccinated who have asymptomatic infection have infection with a very low viral load and they’re not considered to be of high risk of being contagious,” he said.

These cases are called breakthrough which refers to those who have been vaccinated but still contract the disease.

“That’s really strong proof that the vaccines are performing well,” Gastaldo said. “We have vaccinated a significant amount of people in the state of Ohio. A few, a couple hundred breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths are to be expected. No vaccine is 100 percent. There are people out there who have weakened immune systems.”

Gastaldo said the best way to protect yourself from getting sick is to get the vaccine, and if you can’t for health reasons or the vaccine isn’t available due to age, continue wearing a mask.

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