Fact Check

Nearly 4K COVID-19 Patients in Massachusetts Had Been Vaccinated. Here's the Full Story.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that breakthrough cases are expected, even going so far as to bold the statement on its website.

Published Jun 24, 2021

Home base primary care Pharmacist Erin Emonds fills five syringes with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Janssen Vaccine for use in at home vaccinations at the US Department of Veterans Affairs' VA Boston Healthcare System's Jamaica Plain Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts on March 4, 2021. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images) (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Via JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images
Nearly 4,000 fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts tested positive for COVID-19.

On June 16, 2021, the Boston Herald reported that, 3,791 fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts had so far tested positive for COVID-19. Many were asymptomatic or only experienced mild symptoms. At the time, more than 3.7 million people had been fully vaccinated in the state. This placed the known positive rate of fully vaccinated individuals at around 1 in 1,000. The CDC stated in the past that such breakthrough cases are expected.

In late June 2021, readers inquired about a headline that claimed: "Nearly 4,000 Fully Vaccinated People in Massachusetts Test Positive for COVID-19."

While the news appeared to originate from the Boston Herald, it was subsequently shared by several far-right websites. Headlines from Fox News and The Epoch Times then led to a massive amount of uninformed and potentially dangerous anti-vaccine discussion, which was hosted by Facebook and Twitter.

According to CNBC, Facebook claims to have a policy against anti-vaccine messaging. Twitter does, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breakthrough cases like the "nearly 4,000" in vaccinated Massachusetts individuals were expected. As of June 12, there had been 3,791 reported COVID cases in the state out of more than 3.7 million vaccinated people. The data came from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Further, the Boston Herald reported that public health experts said that "many of such cases are either asymptomatic or mild." The number of potentially severe cases was not disclosed.

This key information was not omitted from the aforementioned news stories from right-wing publications. Rather, some social media users appeared to glance at the headlines and advance uninformed and potentially dangerous anti-vaccine discussion based only on the headlines. In an April Fools' Day story from 2014, NPR famously tested the idea that some people may not read beyond headlines before commenting.

Despite the anti-vaccine misinformation seen in social media comments, USA Today reported in February 2021 that "the vaccines were all 100% effective in the vaccine trials in stopping hospitalizations and death."

In sum, it's true that nearly 4,000 fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts tested positive for COVID-19. That meant that around 1 in 1,000 individuals were reported as testing positive, with many of the cases ending up being asymptomatic or mild.

We contacted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for more information on the nearly 4,000 cases of vaccinated individuals. The most recent data available for the state was from June 19. The updated numbers were 3,907 COVID cases out of 3,866,847 vaccinated individuals.

Snopes is still fighting an “infodemic” of rumors and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can help. Find out what we've learned and how to inoculate yourself against COVID-19 misinformation. Read the latest fact checks about the vaccines. Submit any questionable rumors and “advice” you encounter. Become a Founding Member to help us hire more fact-checkers. And, please, follow the CDC or WHO for guidance on protecting your community from the disease.

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

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