Fully vaccinated people who got COVID-19 describe their mild symptoms, and their relief that they'd gotten a shot

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Karlee Camme was supposed to see her grandparents for the first time in more than a year. Everyone was fully vaccinated and ready to go, but two days before the visit she lost her ability to taste and smell.

Camme, 24, had gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a month prior. But it turns out she had a mild case of COVID-19.

Looking back, she realized the runny nose and heavy tiredness she'd experienced earlier in the week might have been early symptoms. It was only the loss of taste and smell that signaled it was anything more than a common cold, leading Camme to get a COVID-19 test.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been extremely successful at preventing serious illnesses that could lead to hospitalizations and deaths. But no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection, Dr. Lisa V. Adams, an associate dean for global health at Dartmouth College, told Insider.

"We know there are and will be some breakthrough infections in individuals who are vaccinated - at least until we get to a point where there is very little virus circulating," Adams said. "The good news is that their illness should be very mild."

The vaccines are designed to prevent hospitalizations and deaths

In early July, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said new data indicated that 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the US were in unvaccinated people.

Out of more than 157 million fully vaccinated Americans, only 733 people had died of COVID-19 as of July 6, according to CDC data. At least 3,554 people had been hospitalized and survived. The CDC is no longer tracking mild breakthrough cases.

About 75% of breakthrough infections occurred in people 65 and older. That included cases in nursing homes, whose residents and staff members were among the first Americans to get vaccinated.

Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told Insider that even with a smattering of breakthrough infections taken into account, the vaccines had met the goal of protecting most people from severe illness.