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.
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.”
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.”
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.”