6 fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding caught the Delta variant, but people with Pfizer and Moderna shots survived, study says

·4 min read
A long table set for dinner in an outdoor tent at a wedding.
Shaw Photography Co. via Getty Images
  • Six fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding in Texas got COVID-19, a new study says.

  • All the breakthrough infections were in guests over 50.

  • There were two serious cases, including one death: an attendee who'd had India's Covaxin vaccine.

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Six fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding in Texas in April came down with COVID-19, a new study says - a small outbreak that underscores how effective vaccines are against even variants of the virus.

Though the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna may not knock out every COVID-19 case, especially now that the more infectious Delta variant dominates across the US, they are very good at preventing death from COVID-19.

The preprint study from Baylor College of Medicine found that only one person who'd recently gotten an Indian-made vaccine, Covaxin, died after attending the 92-person wedding near Houston.

The wedding took place in a "large, open-air tent" before the Delta variant was circulating widely in the US. Guests were required to be fully vaccinated at the event, though that policy operated on the honor system.

Read more: We got an exclusive look inside Moderna's labs, where the biotech upstart is planning what comes after its blockbuster coronavirus vaccine

The study's authors said they suspect the Delta variant was introduced at the wedding by two people who had traveled from India and tested negative before their flight but developed symptoms in the US. All the COVID-19 patients said they'd had close encounters with those two people during the wedding, according to the study.

2 men in their 60s had the most severe COVID-19 cases

An outdoor wedding space with white chairs and with flowers extending toward an altar.
Zhang Zheng/Getty Images

All six guests who contracted symptomatic COVID-19 after the wedding were over 50. Two had gotten the vaccine from Pfizer, two had gotten the vaccine from Moderna, and two had gotten an Indian-made vaccine called Covaxin, the study said. Their infections were confirmed with lab tests and viral sequencing for Delta, it said.

Each experienced some common symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches, the study said. Those who'd gotten the Moderna and Covaxin vaccines also lost their sense of smell.

One Covaxin recipient and one person who'd gotten Pfizer's vaccine came down with more severe infections, the study said. The latter was a man in his 60s with no known medical conditions that increase the odds of contracting COVID-19 - he was hospitalized and given Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment (the same one President Donald Trump received) 10 days after the wedding. The Covaxin recipient, a man in his late 60s (also with no COVID-19 comorbidities), died from complications of COVID-19. The other people who contracted symptomatic COVID-19 after the wedding had preconditions including hypertension and diabetes or were classified as overweight, the study said.

Both wedding attendees who had Covaxin got their second shots in India, just 12 days before the wedding, study author Timothy Farinholt from Baylor College of Medicine told Insider. He suspects that may be the reason why they got infected with the Delta variant in the first place, because their second shot hadn't had enough time to take full effect.

"It's very difficult with a sample size as small as this to give any sort of definitive or cut-and-dry answer as far as, 'oh, Pfizer is better than Moderna, or better than Covaxin,'" Farinholt said.

"What is important to glean from this is that it isn't over until we reach some sort of theoretical max vaccination point, and we start curbing the spread of whatever variant is currently predominant."

Vaccines help prevent severe sickness

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said vaccinated people should still get a COVID-19 test if they experience symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, or cough, which can be indicative of a mild Delta infection among fully vaccinated people.

"What I would say is if you have those upper-respiratory symptoms and you've been vaccinated, you should absolutely get a COVID-19 test," Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing last week.

But she also stressed that preliminary data from the past few months suggested that 99.5% of coronavirus deaths in the US were occurring in unvaccinated people.

"Those deaths were preventable with a simple, safe shot," she said.

During the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor, pointed to real-world data from Scotland and England suggesting that the vaccines authorized in the US are highly effective at preventing the most disastrous cases from this variant.

"Please get vaccinated," Fauci said. "It will protect you against the surging of the Delta variant."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated who got the monoclonal antibody treatment. It was a person who'd gotten Pfizer's vaccine, not Covaxin.

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