ATLANTA - When it comes to COVID-19 infections, Brandon Weldon of East Atlanta has been there and done that, twice.
Last week, the 31-year-old tested positive again, even though he is fully vaccinated and has been extra careful.
But, Weldon says, this second bout was nothing like the first.
That was back in June 2020, just a few months into the pandemic.
"I started out as a tickle, in the back of my throat," Weldon remembers.
Back then, there was no COVID-19 vaccine, and Weldon, who was working at an East Atlanta bar, says the virus hit him hard.
"For more than a month, I was out of work and sick every day," Weldon says. "I had no appetite, shaking, chills, and there was nothing I could do but take Tylenol and sleep."
Now working as an animal care specialist at PAWS Atlanta, Weldon says he struggled with lingering COVID-19 symptoms, like shortness of breath and nightly fevers for months.
So, as soon as he was eligible, he got vaccinated, and, a couple of months ago, boosted.
Then, last week, he started feeling sick again.
"My throat felt scratchy," Weldon says.
The next day, he felt worse.
"My voice was really dry; it was grainy," he says. "I took an at-home test that morning, and it came back positive 15 minutes later."
He had a breakthrough infection.
"It was, like, 'Here we go again,'" Weldon says. "But, I felt confident knowing I was vaccinated, triple vaccinated, and it honestly hasn't been too bad."
Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans who are fully vaccinated have a lower risk of being infected than those who have not been vaccinated. But the vaccines' effectiveness wanes with time, and the shots do not protect against infection with the omicron variant as well as they did with other variants.
"There will be, and we need to expect there will be, breakthrough infections," Dr. Fauci says. "We're dealing with a really transmissible virus. However, the real benefit of vaccination is to prevent you from actually getting sick, as opposed to a few sniffles and not feeling well for a day or so."
So, how does Weldon's breakthrough infection compare to his initial infection?
"Honestly, it's so much easier," he says. "It's nothing like the first time, at all.
The first time, I was honestly scared that, like, my breathing was so bad, I was scared that I wouldn't wake up if I went to sleep, but now I feel like I don't have anything to worry about."
As frustrating as it is to be fully vaccinated and infected, again, Weldon feels fortunate.
"I'm just glad we have a vaccine now," Weldon says. "Because, if we had to do it all over again, with how I felt in 2020, I -- wow -- that was scary. But, I'm not scared now."
Brandon Weldon will be back at PAWS Saturday, after 10 days of isolating at home.