‘This vaccine is not a shield’: Provincetown tracking COVID breakthrough infections

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — Health officials on Cape Cod are monitoring positive COVID-19 infections involving fully vaccinated people who visited Provincetown for the Fourth of July festivities.

The Barnstable County Department of Health said there have been 20 to 25 positive cases from last week, mainly involving folks who are immunized. Travis Dagenais, 35, is one of them; the South Boston resident traveled to Provincetown on July 1 and returned home on July 6.

He told Boston 25 News he felt the onset of what first felt like a cold the following day. He recalls the symptoms worsening from there.

“I was waking up Friday night every 15 minutes with an uncontrollable fever,” Dagenais said. “The density and severity and weight of the exhaustion, that’s when I realized that it was something beyond a cold or a flu.”

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Dagenais said he received his second shot of the Moderna vaccine in late April.

“I’ve spent the last 16 months with two masks on my face, avoiding friends and family, turning down trips while other friends and family members took them,” Dagenais explained. “To be one of these breakthrough cases in one of the few moments when I decided to relax my personal standards is very disconcerting.”

Provincetown’s Town Manager Alex Morse addressed the concerns during a town meeting Monday night. He assured the community that the situation is being monitored closely.

Earlier in the day, he addressed concerns in a Facebook post.

“The Delta variant now accounts for more than half of the new coronavirus cases in the United States — 52%. Almost all of the new cases nationally — 99.7% — are among people who have not been vaccinated,” read a portion of the statement.

“We never expected COVID to completely vanish. We have to do our best to manage it. Vaccinations, better treatment, and more research since last year have put us in a better position to do just that,” Morse went on to say. “As always, we encourage people to make decisions that feel right for them.”

Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Shira Doron said the cases are something to watch but not panic about.

“When you have a very highly immunized population, as is the case with P-Town, and then you have travelers that may be coming from areas that are less well-immunized and maybe even hotspots... that’s going to bring in more infection,” Doron said.

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Doron stresses the importance of being vaccinated. She points out that those who are vaccinated experience less severe symptoms.

“If you’re vaccinated, you have fulfilled your biggest obligation to public health, and you may choose to go to a crowded bar or nightclub... even though there is some risk is involved in that,” Doron added. “It is not zero and it’s never going to be zero because COVID is here to stay.”

Dagenais said he can’t imagine letting his guard back down.

“We have to realize that 94 or 95% is not 100%. This vaccine is not a shield. This vaccine is not an invincibility force,” he said. “To have gone through what I went through, I can’t imagine what it would have felt like without the vaccine.”

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