Breakthrough cases continue to grow as vaccination rates approach 70 percent

Nearly 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases are vaccinated individuals

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a series of constantly changing goals. “Two weeks to flatten the curve” has become 18 months. Mandates and executive orders by Gov. Jay Inslee and President Joe Biden are almost weekly occurrences, as children are kept out of classrooms and people are threatened with losing their jobs if they don’t get vaccinated.

FDA approved vaccinations using Emergency Use Authority quickly became the mantra with a promise that “herd immunity” would get life back to normal once we reached 70 percent vaccination levels.

As of Sept. 2, Clark County has had 32,455 COVID-19 cases, with 20 percent of those cases in the 20-29 age group, followed by the 30-39 and then the 40-49 age groups. The Clark County Public Health (CCPH) department reports 58.2 percent of people age 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals coming down with COVID are now in the news. CCPH is now reporting numbers on their dashboard that includes breakthrough cases. 

The Washington State Department of Health recently began collecting and reporting data on breakthrough cases of COVID-19. The report is issued every two weeks. Recent data indicates 22 percent of new statewide cases are vaccinated individuals who caught the virus. Graphic courtesy Washington State Department of Health
The Washington State Department of Health recently began collecting and reporting data on breakthrough cases of COVID-19. The report is issued every two weeks. Recent data indicates 22 percent of new statewide cases are vaccinated individuals who caught the virus. Graphic courtesy Washington State Department of Health

With 1,660 reported breakthrough cases, one might view them as extremely low — roughly 5 percent of total COVID cases. The data is cumulative since February. However, CCPH and the Washington Department of Health (DOH) only recently began tracking breakthrough cases of COVID. 

The DOH is now issuing a report that is updated every two weeks. The most recent one contained numbers through Aug. 31. The initial report had numbers from January through July 31.

One in five are breakthrough

The state reported 5,879 breakthrough cases from January through the end of July. By the end of August, breakthrough cases increased four-fold to 26,339. That equated to 22.2 percent of all new COVID-19 cases statewide in August. (20,460/92,285).

In Clark County, the numbers are slightly lower. Breakthrough cases in August accounted for 19.2 percent of the total new cases reported. 

A Clark County Public Health official explained how they account for breakthrough cases.

“We have been tracking vaccine breakthrough and reporting those to DOH. The data we have is based on vaccination information compiled through case interviews and outbreak investigations. When someone tests positive, we interview them and ask about vaccination status. If they indicate they have been vaccinated, we will verify their vaccination status by pulling up their record in the state’s immunization database. We don’t have a way to match the immunization database with the separate state database that tracks COVID cases, so we do not have immunization information for people who are not interviewed. 

“The new methodology mentioned in the DOH report is actually linking those two state databases (immunization database and COVID case database) to get a more accurate picture of vaccine breakthrough cases. Clark County Public Health still does not have the ability to do that at the local level, so we don’t have Clark County data using that new methodology. We’re still reporting vaccine breakthrough based on the information we collect through case interviews and facility outbreaks (and verifying by manual look-up in the immunization database).”

They shared the following on the CCPH social media page, as of Sept. 2.

“To date, we have identified a total of 1,660 breakthrough cases in Clark County. That means breakthrough cases have occurred in less than 1 percent — about .67 percent — of fully vaccinated residents in Clark County.

“Among those 1,660 breakthrough cases, 1,191 people reported COVID-19 symptoms, 57 people were hospitalized, and nine people died. These breakthrough case numbers are cumulative.”

In Clark County, numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are rising. Four out of five new cases are among unvaccinated people for the month of August. Graphic Clark courtesy County Public Health
In Clark County, numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are rising. Four out of five new cases are among unvaccinated people for the month of August. Graphic Clark courtesy County Public Health

Comparing that to an earlier report, on Aug. 5 they had reported five deaths among breakthrough case patients. By the end of the month that had jumped 80 percent to nine deaths.

Today, CCPH posted the following on their social media page.

“The number of breakthrough cases has been increasing. While that’s not unexpected, the delta variant has led to more breakthrough cases than we expected to see with earlier strains. Our COVID-19 case numbers overall have also increased dramatically in the last two months. We’re seeing an average of 225 new cases per day. Two months ago, we saw about 21 cases per day. 

“We also have more people who are fully vaccinated now. When more people are vaccinated, there will be more breakthrough cases (imagine if 100 percent of our population was vaccinated, then 100 percent of cases would be breakthrough cases).

“While we are seeing more breakthrough cases, most COVID-19 cases continue to be among those who are not fully vaccinated. We looked at Clark County COVID-19 case rates among people who are fully vaccinated and not fully vaccinated. “Not fully vaccinated” includes people who are unvaccinated, those who have received only one dose of a two-dose series, and those who have completed their vaccination less than two weeks prior to becoming infected with COVID-19.

“Case rates are increasing for both groups, but rates are significantly higher among those who are not fully vaccinated and the increase among those not fully vaccinated is more dramatic, as the graph above shows.

“In July, our COVID-19 case rate among people who were not fully vaccinated was about 462 cases per 100,000 people. In August, that rate jumped to 1,843 cases per 100,000. 

Among people who are fully vaccinated, the case rate increased from about 125 cases per 100,000 in July to about 412 cases per 100,000 in August.

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide the best protection against COVID-19, particularly against severe illness that leads to hospitalization and death. Vaccine protection against hospitalization has decreased some for adults older than 75, due to the delta variant. But the vaccine is still more than 80 percent effective at preventing hospitalization for older adults. 

Adults 75 years and older should continue to take additional precautions to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19. And anyone who is not yet vaccinated, should talk to their health care provider or find a location near them offering COVID-19.”

Nearly 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases are among vaccinated individuals in Clark County. The public health department reports 67 percent of the eligible population is now vaccinated. Graphic courtesy Clark County Public Health
Nearly 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases are among vaccinated individuals in Clark County. The public health department reports 67 percent of the eligible population is now vaccinated. Graphic courtesy Clark County Public Health

Yesterday, KIRO radio’s Dave Ross interviewed Dr. Keith Jerome, head of the University of Washington Virology Lab about the pandemic. “Even people who are vaccinated can get reinfected with COVID and can pass it on,” Jerome said.

“Certainly we know that the vaccines are better at preventing illness and hospitalization from delta than they are preventing any infection with delta,” Jerome said. “We’re definitely seeing more and more cases of people who have been vaccinated have a positive delta test. It definitely does reduce how infectious you are — I think that’s pretty clear that it seems to reduce the amount of virus that you have if you do get infected and how long you’re infectious, but that’s not complete.”

“So, yeah, people can certainly pass the virus on even if they’ve been vaccinated,” he clarified.

The Delta variant makes up almost all (98 percent) of the current COVID-19 cases in Washington state. The mu variant is emerging on the global stage.

“I think we don’t really know what mu is going to do right now,” said Jerome. “It is, yes, yet another variant. It seems to have certain things we would be concerned about. Seems to kind of focus on the ability to evade immunity, which is a little different from delta, which seems to mostly work by being more infectious.”

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Adam moore
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Adam moore
11 days ago

Thanks for the great reporting! What I feel is missing is the all important deaths of fully vaccinated. The last 6 covid deaths in the county also correspond to 4 new breakthrough deaths in the county. 4 out of the 6 new deaths in 2 weeks are fully vaccinated. So either they are attributing covid deaths when they shouldn’t, or the vaccine isn’t working well.

John Ley
Guest
John Ley
11 days ago
Reply to  Adam moore

Thanks, Adam.

The challenge is that the state didn’t begin collecting & then reporting the data until the end of July.

For the County, they don’t have access to the state’s database of who has been vaccinated.

Therefore when someone dies, and it’s reported as a death WITH the deceased having Covid, they cannot look up to see if the deceased was vaccinated or not.

You and I know there are more than 9 mortalities with COVID-19 in Clark County.

But until you have access to all the data at both the County and State levels, we have to rely on what they are reporting.

Adam moore
Guest
Adam moore
11 days ago
Reply to  John Ley

Interesting the county just added 42 new covid deaths today that are from as far back as July—so much for weekly updates. It just doesn’t ring true, if the majority is vaccinated in the mid-elderly population, and the vaccine works well, why are the hospitals reporting more carnage than ever?

Adam moore
Guest
Adam moore
11 days ago
Reply to  Adam moore

Another suspicious coincidence is that if one wanted to scrutinize any of these details, as of last year, you don’t have access to death records. Funny how the state legislature got around to changing that durning a pandemic crisis. https://www.usbirthcertificates.com/articles/washington-vital-records-law-2021

Margaret
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Margaret
10 days ago
Reply to  John Ley

From WA Dept of Health, ” (data from January 17, 2021 – August 28, 2021)
• 26,339 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine breakthrough cases have been identified in Washington State.
• Of the cases that have data available:
– 87% reported symptoms
– 9% were hospitalized
– 220 people died of COVID-related illness
The criteria for identifying vaccine breakthrough cases include a positive lab test (either a PCR test or an antigen test) at least 14 days after a person received their last recommended dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

Margaret
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Margaret
10 days ago
Reply to  Margaret

People have been hospitalized or died, and tested positive within 14 days of vaccination, but these cases are excluded from “breakthrough” cases. People have been hospitalized or died, and tested positive after the first dose of a 2-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, but these cases are also excluded from “breakthrough cases” under the criteria that the WA Dept of Health uses.
“Breakthrough cases” of people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to increase throughout the United States.

chris
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chris
11 days ago
Reply to  Adam moore

I think open dialog is the most imported part of this, it has been curbed on so many other platforms, please look at the trends that happened in Israel, England and Iceland, they all had high vax rates and I think around 60% brake through cases for delta. their is studies from England and Israel booth are 60 to 92 page papers. I don’t know why we are ignoring nature amenity, if it didn’t work we would we have gone the way of the dinosaurs by now? Yes people are dying but we should protect the people at risk. I looked up death by age group in the US and by Clark county, 0-17 in the US we had 192 covid,178 flu and 601 pneumonia and in 2018 flu season we had 477 kids in that age group pass a way, 107 more of the flu then covid and the flu last year. I also looked up the number for Clark county yesterday by age group 0-29 I think had 0 deaths, as we get older the risk starts to go up, above 50 or 60 it goes up a lot.

Lets be Rational
Guest
Lets be Rational
11 days ago

Yup, breakthrough is definitely possible, I found this particularly interesting:
https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/pandemic-data-initiative/news/the-state-of-state-level-breakthrough-case-reporting

Cases ~3x in non-vaccinated than vaccinated…generally aligns with your figures
Hospitalizations ~4x for non-vaccinated
Death rate 10x+ for non-vaccinated

My take on the data…vaccine not a magic cure, but certainly reduces your likelihood of catching and getting sick enough to need hospitalization…also very positive in terms of reducing likelihood of death.

I made the decision to get the vaccine for myself and my family…still feels like the right choice and a good one to encourage for everyone with a healthy immune system.

Also, begrudgingly, this supports the renewed push for masking, esp. where there is low vaccination rates (i.e. schools). I’m not a fan of having to mask up again, but does kind of make some sense, I don’t want to be the one that spreads it to and kills your mother/grandmother.

Margaret
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Margaret
10 days ago

“Defining a vaccine breakthrough infectionFor the purpose of this surveillance, a vaccine breakthrough infection is defined as the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen in a respiratory specimen collected from a person ≥14 days after they have completed all recommended doses of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.”
https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/health-departments/breakthrough-cases.html

Using this criteria, people who got vaccinated, and were hospitalized or died and had a positive test within 14 days after vaccination are excluded from breakthrough case counts. People who got vaccinated and were hospitalized or died and tested positive after the first dose of a 2-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna are excluded from breakthough case counts. It’s not until 14 days after the second dose that a person is labeled “fully vaccinated” and may be reported as a breakthrough case.

In this CCTODAY article, it’s important to note, ““Not fully vaccinated” includes people who are unvaccinated, those who have received only one dose of a two-dose series, and those who have completed their vaccination less than two weeks prior to becoming infected with COVID-19.”

Not fully vaccinated is not the same as non-vaccinated.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa
10 days ago

Great article, thank you. Good to see the county health department finally tracking breakthrough infections. They also need to track and report COVID-19 reinfections so we can understand how natural immunity holds up against the virus and variants, A missing piece of the puzzle.

Terry
Guest
Terry
10 days ago

I would love to see an article on exactly what treatment is being used in these facilities. There are four treatments that I know of that seem to work but when my friend went to peace health recently all they gave her was IV fluids.
Regeneron has a EAU so should be given automatically.

jlpdx
Guest
jlpdx
10 days ago

Also I believe someone is considered unvaccinated if they present with symptoms up to 14 days after getting the vaccine. Countries like Scotland, who haven’t cooking the books on their covid statistics, keeps track of no shot, partial, and fully separate as well for greater transparency and truer science. They don’t lump the 1 shotters in with the unvaccinated.

Margaret
Guest
Margaret
10 days ago
Reply to  jlpdx

in WA state, “The criteria for identifying vaccine breakthrough cases include a positive lab test (either a PCR test or an antigen test) at least 14 days after a person received their last recommended dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.”

The CCToday article clarifies that indeed the 1 shotters, and even 2 shotters within 14 days of vaccination are lumped in with unvaccinated,
. “Not fully vaccinated” includes people who are unvaccinated, those who have received only one dose of a two-dose series, and those who have completed their vaccination less than two weeks prior to becoming infected with COVID-19.”

Last edited 10 days ago by Margaret
Margaret
Guest
Margaret
10 days ago

Children’s Health Defense weekly report on the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) data released by the CDC shows 675,593 reports of adverse events following COVID vaccines from all age groups, including 14,506 deaths and 88,171 serious injuries between Dec. 14, 2020 and Sept. 3, 2021. Excluding “foreign reports” filed in VAERS, 539,473 adverse events, including 6,577 deaths and 41,840 serious injuries, were reported in the U.S. between Dec. 14, 2020 and Sept. 3, 2021. Of the 6,577 U.S. deaths reported as of Sept. 3, 18% occurred within 48 hours of vaccination and 31% occurred in people who experienced an onset of symptoms within 48 hours of being vaccinated. 21% of deaths were related to cardiac disorders. See full article for details on adverse events and ages

According to the WA State Department of Health, “The criteria for identifying vaccine breakthrough cases include a positive lab test (either a PCR test or an antigen test) at least 14 days after a person received their last recommended dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.” People have been hospitalized or died, and tested positive within 14 days of vaccination, but these cases are excluded from “breakthrough” cases. People have been hospitalized or died, and tested positive after the first dose of a 2-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, but these cases are also excluded from “breakthrough cases” under the criteria.
“Breakthrough cases” of people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to increase throughout the United States.

Recent studies show that people who have had a COVID infection likely have natural immunity that appears to be superior to immunity from man-made products. Natural immunity evidenced by titer tests counts as immunity for other diseases targeted by vaccines, and should count for COVID too.

Margaret
Guest
Margaret
3 days ago
Reply to  Margaret

Update. “At a Glance (data from January 17, 2021 – September 04, 2021)
• 31,708 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine breakthrough cases have been identified in Washington
State.
• Of the cases that have data available (approximately 50%):
– 88% reported symptoms
– 9% were hospitalized
– 269 people died of COVID-related illness
The criteria for identifying vaccine breakthrough cases include a positive lab test (either a PCR test or an antigen test) at least 14 days after a person received their last recommended dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.”
https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/data-tables/420-339-VaccineBreakthroughReport.pdf

What happened to the 50% of breakthrough cases where data is not available? Why is the data not available? How many WA residents have been hospitalized or died following a Covid vaccination?

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