7 Vaccinated Florida Patients Die of COVID; Nurse Calls Situation 'Disturbing'

A Florida nurse said seven fully vaccinated patients died from COVID-19 in the past two weeks in a situation she as "heartbreaking."

Patricia Seemann, who runs All About You Home Visiting Clinicians in Saint Cloud, told Newsweek in an interview Tuesday afternoon that before the deaths, she had successfully treated hundreds of patients with COVID-19. She said she works with housebound patients who are over 60 years old and are at high-risk of COVID-19 related deaths. "We didn't lose a single patient," she said.

However, an elderly couple Seeman described as among her favorite patients contracted the virus. She said she upon hearing they were sick, she insisted they needed to be tested for the virus even though they were vaccinated, knowing no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Within 24 hours, the wife had died, shortly followed by her husband.

"It absolutely killed me," Seemann said. "They were elderly. They were husband and wife. Loved them. You get attached to your patients."

She warned, "People are being lulled into a false sense of security."

She said she feels people do not understand certain things about COVID-19. She said people need to understand that it is most devastating to people over the age of 60, and that the vaccine, while essential to fighting the virus, is not 100 percent effective.

"The message is to give yourself the best possible odds," she said.

She said everybody needs to get vaccinated against the virus, especially people who are at high risk. There also needs to be a larger push for people to continue practicing droplet precautions by washing their hands and getting tested if they think they have symptoms—especially if they will be around people who are high risk of severe infection—she said.

Breakthrough cases—instances of fully vaccinated people contracting the COVID-19 virus—are expected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine is still "effective" and "a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control," according to the CDC website.

There is some evidence that being vaccinated may make illness less severe for patients who contact the virus, according to the CDC.

As of August 9, more than 166 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In that same time, the CDC said they received 8,054 reports of fully vaccinated people either being hospitalized or dying from the virus. The majority of these cases, 5,928—or 74 percent—were in people 65 years old or older.

COVID-19 vaccine
Seven fully vaccinated patients have died from COVID-19 in the past week, one Florida medical practice reported. Here, a health care worker administers a vaccine in Miami on August 5. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 cases in Florida have continued to increase due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. On Sunday, the state had a seven-day-average of 30,353 new cases per day, compared with an average of 6,493 one month earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Just under 52 percent of the state's population has been fully vaccinated against the virus.

While experts are concerned about breakthrough cases, vaccine hesitancy remains a more significant threat, several experts previously told Newsweek.

"Infections in unvaccinated people are the bigger problem by far," said Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "They get infected more; they get sicker; and they likely transmit virus more readily."

Still, breakthrough cases do occur. Senator Lindsey Graham, who contracted the virus while vaccinated, said in a tweet if he was not vaccinated, his symptoms would have been "far worse." Several vaccinated staff members of a Maine hospital's emergency department tested positive for the virus earlier in August.

Update 4:22 p.m. 8/17/2020: This story has been updated to include comments from Patricia Seemann.