Who was Joan Barrows? NJ vaxxed woman dies from ‘breakthrough’ Covid

Joan Barrows received both shots of the Moderna vaccine, and still succumbed to Covid-19, that doesn't mean everyone is in danger

                            Who was Joan Barrows? NJ vaxxed woman dies from ‘breakthrough’ Covid
A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (Jacob King - WPA Pool/Getty Images) with an insert of Joan Barrows (Legacy.com)

Whether you have been partially or fully vaccinated, it can seem like the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is at hand. You can finally go out, celebrate in large crowds and travel on holiday. However, just because you are vaccinated doesn't mean you should throw all caution to the wind. If the case of Joan Barrows is anything to go by, even fully vaxxed people need to take some precautions. 

In the US, the pandemic appears to be at an end but that is far from the case. As emails from Dr Anthony Fauci revealed, there is a possibility of 'enhanced' variants emerging, which we are currently seeing with the Delta Plus variant. Combining that with anti-vaxxers like Virginia Brown, it seems almost impossible to eradicate Covid-19. In fact, that could very much be a reality. Dr Larry Brilliant, who helped eradicate smallpox told The Daily Beast that Covid-19 is most likely here for good. 


Vaccines have been mandatory for years, so why the drama over Covid-19?

Can 'Nepal variant' reduce Covid-19 vaccine efficacy? New mutation detected in US has experts concerned

That means, even if you are fully vaccinated, it is worth taking some precautions. It comes down to a phenomenon called 'breakthrough' cases, which is what happened to Barrows. Here's her story, and what you need to know about the risks of Covid-19, even to fully vaccinated people. 

Joe Biden (L) receives the second dose of a COVID-19 Vaccination from Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming (R) at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on January 11, 2021, in Newark, Delaware (Alex Wong/Getty Images)


Who is Joan Barrows?

A resident of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Barrows died after being reinfected with Covid-19 on May 15. North Jersey reported that Barrows was exposed to an unvaccinated person, leading her to become seriously ill even though she had received both doses of the Moderna vaccine. She died in hospital, leaving her friends and family with a tough lesson on social responsibility. 

A lifelong resident of Fair Lawn, Barrows was a member of Memorial Middle School’s first girl's softball team, which remained undefeated in their first season. After graduating high school in 1977, she went on to Montclair State University. After that, she worked at the management firm ADP. In 2010, Joan had a lung transplant due to pulmonary fibrosis. "She was the glue who held us all together," Barrows' brother Jim Russo said. Unfortunately for the family, things turned for the worse in May.

On a Sunday evening, Barrows collapsed at her home due to weakness. She was immediately transported to Hackensack University Medical Center. She was then taken to New York Presbyterian, where she was placed on a ventilator. On May 15, she passed away. "To see this happen, when I honestly believed we were at the end of the pandemic …" her brother managed to say before trailing off. 

How did Barrows, who was fully vaccinated succumb to Covid-19? The answer can be found in a not-so-common phenomenon that is called a 'breakthrough' infection. Barrows isn't the only person to succumb to Covid this way, but her story does offer some important lessons. 

A security guard gives directions to enter the Northwell Health pop-up coronavirus vaccination site at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Staten Island on April 08, 2021, in New York City (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)


What is a breakthrough infection?

The CDC defines a breakthrough infection as "the detection of Covid-19 in a person around 14 days after they have completed all recommended doses of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine." Such infections are not unexpected. The CDC says "no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19."

There are numerous reasons for this. One could be because your body didn't react the way it was supposed to when vaccinated. Another could be exposure to a new strain or variant of Covid-19. The latter is largely seen as the reason for the massive rise in cases in India and South Africa, despite vaccinations. There are numerous reasons a person can get 'reinfected' or have a breakthrough infection. It is important you know it is possible.

A man wearing a cutout mask gathered with hundreds of others at a 'Hazardous Liberty! Defend the Constitution!' rally to protest the stay-at-home order, at the Capitol building on April 19, 2020, in Olympia, Washington (Karen Ducey/Getty Images)


But just because it is possible, doesn't mean it will happen. As of June 21, more than 150 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. Out of that, there have been 4,115 confirmed cases of a breakthrough infection and 549 confirmed deaths. Breakthrough infections are so rare, that they occur in around only 0.1% of vaccinated people. That means there's a very good chance that you will not be infected, after being fully vaccinated. 

The Covid-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe, and effective. It is why the government urges everyone to get vaccinated at the earliest. If you have been fully vaxxed, urge those who haven't had their shots to get them. As Dr. Larry Brilliant noted, not doing so will give the virus more opportunities to mutate and create deadlier variants. The pandemic is far from over, and we still need to be cautious. Urge unvaxxed people to get their shot, and follow all guidelines to help ensure we bring Covid-19 under control. For more information, please refer to the CDC article linked above. 

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.