'Breakthrough' COVID death: Fully-vaccinated Flossmoor man, 75, dies from virus a month after 2nd vaccine dose

Illinois begins releasing data on 'breakthrough' COVID cases, deaths
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials began releasing data Wednesday on what it calls "breakthrough" COVID-19 cases, which involve fully-vaccinated people who still get the virus - and sometimes die.

A 75-year-old south suburban Flossmoor man is one such case. More than two weeks after his second vaccine dose, Alan Sporn, felt free.

"It was a Saturday, and he said instead of getting together for dinner tonight, kids, I'm going to meet you guys for lunch because I'm going out with my friends tonight to celebrate that we made it through this year," said Bonnie Sporn, his daughter.

But days later, one of his dinner mates tested positive for COVID-19, and so did Sporn. The 75-year-old grandfather of four died from the virus a month after receiving his second shot.

"I got my vaccine, and a lot of people should and did get it. But vaccines aren't a hundred percent," his daughter said.

RELATED | Illinois reports 2,728 new COVID cases, 33 deaths

It's called a "breakthrough" infection when someone tests positive for COVID-19 at least 14 days after completing their vaccine series. While most cases are mild or asymptomatic, officials say at least 97 fully-vaccinated people have been hospitalized and 32 have died in Illinois. That's out of nearly 4 million people fully vaccinated, or less than 1/100th of 1%.

"When people hear these numbers, they have to recognize that no vaccine is perfect, but this vaccine is still very, very, very good," said Dr. Stephen Schrantz, Infectious Disease Specialist, Univ. Of Chicago Medicine.

But scientists say the vaccine may be less effective for those with compromised immune systems. Relatives said Sporn had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and before his death, a test showed he had little or no COVID antibodies.

"I wish more people knew about the antibody test," Sporn said. "It's just one more test, and it's a safety procedure that would have definitely saved my father's life."

"There is some movement in that regard to push people to potentially get a test to make sure the vaccine took," Schrantz said.

The potential for breakthrough infections is, in part, why indoor mask wearing and distancing is still recommended for those who are fully vaccinated.
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