Report: Vaccinated UGA student a rare breakthrough death from COVID

University of Georgia students and faculty are mourning the death of a student who died this week from an apparent breakthrough COVID-19 case.

The death was notable because almost all deaths from COVID-19 currently occur among the unvaccinated.

Shawn Kuhn, 21, a stellar student who loved to play soccer and run cross-country, died Monday after battling pneumonia for six weeks. He had been fully vaccinated, said his older sister, Sharla Brook Kuhn, according to a report Thursday by The Red & Black, UGA’s student newspaper.

Breakthrough infections have been happening across the state, especially with the more infectious delta variant.  But those infections tend to clear up.  The vaccines have proven highly effective at keeping breakthrough infections from becoming severe or fatal.

As of Wednesday, Georgia had 63,298 breakthrough COVID-19 cases reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The department reports on its website that there have been 741 COVID-19 related deaths in breakthrough cases this year and two of those deaths were Georgians between the ages of 18 and 34. COVID-19 related deaths means the disease was a contributor in the person’s death according to their medical records or death certificate, the department notes online.

There have been 6,617 deaths nationally among those with a COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infection, according to federal data. The data, though, may not be complete because some states do not have the capacity to match patients’ hospital admission data with their immunization records, according to the news site, Politico. Nearly 719,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. There have been more than 20,500 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Georgia and at least another 3,000 probable deaths.

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Kuhn was a senior working towards a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science, according to a family obituary posted on the Watson & Hunt Funeral Home website. He worked as a Certified Personal Trainer at UGA’s Ramsey Student Center and at Chick-fil-A in Athens. Kuhn was on the Dean’s List, the obituary said.

“Shawn Kuhn you were the perfect son!,” his father, Timothy, posted Monday on Facebook. “You were everything your mother and I could have ever asked for and so much more. I just can’t believe you are gone. It just doesn’t make sense. The only thing that I can think is that you were such a good person that God rewarded you with an early pass into heaven. Just know that your mother and I love you more than you could ever imagine and we could not be any more proud of the man you grew to be. We will see you again someday. We love you son..... Always!”

ExploreComplete coverage of COVID-19 in Georgia

Funeral Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Cross Point Baptist Church in Perry, where he was a member. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to The Shawn Kuhn Memorial Scholarship Fund, Perry High School, 1307 North Avenue, Perry, GA 31069.