Breakthrough Infections, Deaths Among COVID-19 Vaccinated Rose in Recent Months: CDC

Breakthrough Infections, Deaths Among COVID-19 Vaccinated Rose in Recent Months: CDC
A medical worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Zachary Stieber

Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths linked to COVID-19 have risen in recent months among people who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the bulk of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred among unvaccinated Americans, the data show.

COVID-19 cases per 100,000 among the fully vaccinated increased to 121 in mid-August from 12.3 in late June, according to CDC data. Around the same time, COVID-19-associated hospitalizations in that population rose to 75 per 100,000 from 8.9 and COVID-19 deaths jumped to 1.1 per 100,000 from 0.1.
A stream of studies in recent months has indicated that COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness is waning, especially against infections. The CDC data, gathered from surveillance systems in states and hospitals, provide another source verifying a drop in protection.

“The marked pronounced change in vaccine effectiveness is likely due to emergence of the Delta variant as the dominant variant, and the waning of vaccine immunity over time,” Paul Alexander, a former Trump administration COVID-19 adviser who has a masters of science in clinical epidemiology and community health, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“The immunity from the vaccine drops markedly over the few months post-vaccine. The Delta is more infectious (yet far less lethal), but the real issue is that there is a mismatch as the vaccine does not hit the Delta, so there is immune escape. It has effectively failed against the Delta and the accumulated evidence shows this (UK, Israel, etc.). So once infections rise, there is usually a hospitalization curve and then a death curve that follows,” said Alexander, who also consulted for the World Health Organization.

Scientists often refer to cases, hospitalizations, or deaths that occur in the fully vaccinated as “breakthroughs.” None of the vaccines is 100 percent effective, and all of them have declined in effectiveness over time, according to studies and clinical data. The decline has largely matched the introduction and quick dominance of the CCP virus’s Delta variant.

A breakdown of the CDC’s data by age shows that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the vaccinated have increased across all age groups.

Officials in Maryland, which contributed data on cases and deaths, said they’ve seen an increase in deaths attributed to COVID-19 among the vaccinated.

Of the 190 deaths among confirmed COVID-19 cases between Sept. 16 and Oct. 18 in the state, 32 percent were fully vaccinated people, Andy Owen, deputy director for media relations for the Maryland Department of Health, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“Many of these deaths are linked to comorbidities that make patients more vulnerable. This further underscores our mission to maintain immunity by urging all eligible Marylanders to get their booster shots. Keep in mind that as the number of our residents who are vaccinated continues to increase, we expect to see an increase in the proportion of COVID-related deaths occurring in vaccinated individuals,” he said.

Still, just 295 of the nearly 4 million Marylanders who have been fully vaccinated have died of COVID-19, officials in the state said.

The waning effectiveness of vaccines recently drove drug regulators and the CDC to authorize and recommend booster shots for millions of Americans, including individuals who got the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Boosters are needed to generate long-lived immunity with virtually every non-live vaccine, including polio and hepatitis A shots, said Dr. David Boulware, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine.

“Thus, needing a booster was an expectation for most immunologists, infectious disease physicians, and/or pediatricians familiar with vaccines. The only question was, ‘When?’” he told The Epoch Times in an email.

While data show that antibodies from the vaccines are decreasing over time, memory B cells are retained, which help the human body respond rapidly to infections. However, the Delta variant brought shorter incubation periods, highlighting a need for a larger population of the B cells.

“This is achieved with a booster, which is why boosters are beneficial at >6 months. With boosters, I (and others) expect vaccine breakthrough infections to greatly decrease, and the emerging data support this,” Boulware said.

The data on breakthrough metrics show a slight drop in breakthrough cases near the end of August.

The bulk of the infections, hospitalizations, and deaths were found to be among the unvaccinated, or people who had no verification of having received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. The agency said the data show that an unvaccinated person in August had a 6.1 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and an 11.3 percent greater risk of dying from COVID-19.

While metrics among the unvaccinated did rise across age groups, the data illustrate how younger, healthy people are at little risk from the disease. Unvaccinated 18- to 29-year-olds saw deaths lower than most fully vaccinated age groups, and the death rate for unvaccinated 30- to 49-year-olds was well below that of fully vaccinated people 80 or older and close to that of fully vaccinated 65- to 79-year-olds.

Most of the deaths were reported to be among unvaccinated people 65 or older.