The proportion of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among vaccinated residents of Pennsylvania rose sharply over the past month, reflecting the fact that a higher percentage of the population has now received the vaccine, but also likely protection. declined somewhat, state health officials said on Friday.
The latest data from the Ministry of Health on so-called “revolutionary” infections show that between September 5 and October 4, those vaccinated accounted for just over a quarter – 26% – of more than 135,000 new infections and nearly 5,000 hospital admissions across the state. . Death statistics for the last 30 days were not available due to delays in reporting and verification.
When the health ministry released its first breakthrough case data set on September 14, just 6% of cases and 5% of hospitalizations since January were in residents who had been vaccinated.
As more and more people are vaccinated, the number of vaccinated people who contract the virus and end up in hospital will inevitably represent a larger share of the overall total.
State health officials have cited this mathematical certainty, but also the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, as well as the decrease in immunity in some populations who have received the vaccine.
“Vaccines were designed to prevent serious illness and hospitalization, but no vaccine is 100%,” Acting State Surgeon General Dr Denise Johnson said in a telephone interview. . “As we have more people vaccinated, there will be more cases among those vaccinated people. That doesn’t mean the vaccines don’t work. They work as expected.
The situation in Pennsylvania reflects what is happening nationally. Groundbreaking cases accounted for 14% of hospitalizations in the United States and 16% of deaths in June and July, about double the percentage than at the start of the year, according to a study released last month by the Centers for Disease Control. and Prevention.
At a press briefing on Friday, Johnson said state officials were looking to learn more about Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking cases, including how long people had been vaccinated before they were infected, if they had underlying health issues that increased their risk and their age.
She said the data strengthens the case for booster shots. Last month, U.S. health officials approved a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older, as well as for young people at higher risk.
“We know vaccines offer great protection,” Johnson said. “Even now, with the delta variant, with the waning immunity, the cases that we have, the hospitalizations that we have, the people who are really sick, are still largely unvaccinated.”
Separately, Commonwealth Partners, a Harrisburg-based free market advocacy association, released Department of Health data weekly it obtained through an open case request that showed similar increases in cases and hospitalizations among those vaccinated – as well as increasing deaths.
Those statistics covered a period between late April and late August and showed that the peaks were particularly pronounced after the delta became the dominant strain of the virus. About a third of the state’s deaths from early July to mid-August were among residents vaccinated.
Gina Diorio, the group’s public affairs director, accused Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s administration of apparently hiding the most recent trends in COVID-19 when state health officials released the first batch of groundbreaking data last month.
“In September, (the Ministry of Health) must have known that the current figures were different from what they published. Why not give the Pennsylvanians current information? What is there to hide? Said Diorio. “At the end of the day, it’s about transparency. The Wolf administration should not have asked the Wolf administration to release this information to the public.
Johnson said last month the focus was on collecting and analyzing big data since the start of the year on breakthrough infections, which she called “huge progress for us,” with a lot of manual work involved. She said it was not a political choice.
“It was just a step-by-step process for us, first to get the huge backlog of data, then try to analyze it and analyze it later. It took us a lot of work to get there, ”she said.
Over the past month and since the start of 2021, state data indicates that residents of Pennsylvania who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus were much more likely to contract COVID-19, be hospitalized and die than those who have been vaccinated.
Last month, even as the state grappled with the delta, unvaccinated people were three times more likely to be infected and land in hospital, according to figures.
Since January, the risk of death was six times higher among unvaccinated residents. At least 518 vaccinated residents have died, or about 7% of the 2021 total.
“The good news is that vaccines still work and very well in preventing serious illness and hospitalizations,” Johnson said.