OLYMPIA, Wash. — On Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) announced that it’s investigating cases of fully-vaccinated people in the state contracting COVID-19. In the medical community, these instances are referred to as “vaccine breakthrough” cases, which public health officials say are expected with most vaccines.
The Washington DOH noted that large-scale clinical studies found that COVID-19 vaccines are 95% effective. This means that a small percentage of people who are vaccinated may still contract COVID-19. These breakthrough cases represent the leftover 5% of people who are vaccinated that still contract the virus.
State epidemiologists have been recording data associated with these cases. Washington has recorded 102 breakthrough cases since February out of more than one million people who have been vaccinated in the state. These cases represent 0.01% of vaccinated people in Washington to date.
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DOH officials say that most of these breakthrough cases have been mild, but eight of the 102 cases resulted in hospitalization. Furthermore, Washington public health officials are studying the cases of two vaccinated individuals who died of COVID-19. State officials say each of these individuals was over 80 years of age with underlying health conditions.
Washington’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Umair Shah, is a strong advocate for COVID-19 vaccines regardless of this limited sum of breakthrough cases.
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“It is important to remember that every vaccine on the market right now prevents severe disease and death in most cases,” Dr. Shah said. “People should still get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, and encourage friends, loved ones, and co-workers to do the same.
“Finding evidence of vaccine breakthrough cases reminds us that, even if you have been vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask, practice socially distancing, and wash your hands to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others who have not been vaccinated.”
Washington state moves into the next wave of vaccine eligibility on March 31, paving the way for millions of Washingtonians to inoculate themselves from the virus. Still, these breakthrough cases are further proof that it’ll take more than a shot or two to emerge from the pandemic unscathed.
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