Here’s what we know about breakthrough cases in Arizona

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Less than 1% of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus.

ARIZONA, USA — A vast majority of COVID-19 cases in Arizona are in those who have not been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported that unvaccinated individuals made up about 89% of all new cases in July.

However, breakthrough cases do happen, as no vaccine can completely protect everyone from the virus.

9,880 breakthrough cases statewide

ADHS said a total of 9,880 breakthrough cases have been reported in Arizona. That’s less than 1% of all more than 3.3 million Arizonans who are fully vaccinated against COVID.

Breakthrough cases are when someone who is fully vaccinated against the virus tests positive for COVID-19.

A spokesperson told 12 News that 88% of the breakthrough cases have reported having symptoms of COVID.

“None of the vaccines are perfect, but they are amazingly good vaccines,” Dr. David Engelthaler, Director of the Infectious Disease Wing at TGen said.

The vaccines are not just good at helping keep people from getting COVID in the first place, but more importantly, they are effective at keeping people from being hospitalized or dying from the virus.

“The vast majority, 99.5% of people in the hospital are unvaccinated,” Dr. Joshua LaBaer, Executive Director at the Biodesign Institute at ASU said.

Very few people have died who are fully vaccinated

ADHS told 12 News preliminary data showed that 46 people have died from COVID who were fully vaccinated.

LaBaer said the latest data he’s seen out of serious infections in Arizona, .5% of COVID cases in the hospital are from breakthrough cases.

“The vast majority, 99.5% of people in the hospital are unvaccinated,” LaBaer said. “Of course, in terms of deaths, the number drops even down to .3%. So, very, very low in Arizona.”

Engelthaler and LaBaer both said many of the small fraction of people who die, even though they are vaccinated, usually have another complicating factor.

“Almost every single circumstance, that’s an individual who has some type of immune suppression, maybe a cancer patient or significantly elderly over 80, where the vaccine just didn’t work strong enough in them to get their immune system boosted,” Engelthaler said.

Engelthaler said there are studies showing a third booster could be beneficial for the immune-compromised, who are most at risk for a breakthrough case of COVID.

NBC reported the FDA is getting ready to amend the emergency use authorization granted to both Moderna and Pfizer to allow for people with compromised immune systems to get a third dose of the vaccine.

Breakdown of which vaccine breakthrough cases received

ADHS told 12 News that out of the 9,880 breakthrough cases, 6,072 of those people got the Pfizer vaccine, 2,568 of them got the Moderna vaccine at 1,240 got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A spokesperson for the department said they do not have a report tracking which vaccine all more than 3.3 million fully immunized Arizonans received.

However, Pima County, the state’s second-largest county does.

Credit: 12 News

Pima County’s data showed that in the 1,188 breakthrough cases of COVID in the county, nearly 13% of them got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

However, only 3% of people fully vaccinated in Pima County got that shot.

“We did know that the vaccine efficacy on the J&J is lower, we’ve all seen that,” Engelthaler said. “It’s only a single shot which made it attractive, but it does put it at higher risk for breakthrough cases to occur. Of course, we’re still seeing very high levels of protection against serious illness and death even with the J&J vaccine. But, it will have less protection you will see more breakthrough cases with individuals that got that then got the mRNA vaccines.”

The vaccine is still the best protection

Arizona is currently moving through another wave of the virus with the highly transmissible Delta variant driving cases.

“We’re on the upswing right now,” LaBaer said.

Currently, Engelthaler estimates 85 to 90% of cases in the state carry the Delta variant.

Both LaBaer and Engelthaler said the vaccine is still the best defense against the virus.

“I really do think that we will all be immunized, whether it’s from the vaccine or from infection or both, and it’s better to be immunized from the vaccine,” Engelthaler said.

Find information on where to get a COVID-19 vaccine here.

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